I almost don't need to write anything for this. Either that or the extreme opposite and craft a huge essay extolling the historical and sonic importance of Autechre, Warp, and this collection, EPs 1991-2002. While I normally call upon descriptors and reference points for bands, I personally feel as if Autechre need no real introduction. Sure, they're not as outwardly popular (or movie friendly) as, say, Aphex Twin, but the duo have maintained a level of quality and inventiveness that is commendable and certainly of some historical importance. For the seeming excess of EPs (five discs and over 300 minutes), each track is warranted and vital to each EP, a testament to the efficiency of the format and the uses of it outside of their more interconnected full lengths. The draw of owning their first ever EP, Cavity Job, on CD is one major selling point, as is finally having everything in one package that sounds as if it underwent a damn fine remaster, and there are few bands, let alone electronic projects, that warrant such an expansive issue of just non-album tracks. If you, reader, already have an interest in this release then you don't need my opinion in the rabid chorus. But if you must know, I shall continue.

Autechre as a project have become known for their hugely experimental and near generative take on the electronic genre, never able to be pinned or pronounced. Yes, that's common knowledge and solidified with each release, especially the recent, brilliant Quaristice and the even more recent Oversteps, so a five hour plus mega collection of each EP leading up to their current batch of releases seems almost presumptuous of their own importance. The appeal of dating it as a 20th anniversary of Cavity Job is sure to be a major draw for the uber-dedicated as much as the insane completist, and the ability to purchase the entirety of a vital part of their music in one fell swoop, thus bypassing the moral dilemma/breakdown of file-sharing and the endless pain of eBay and Amazon used sellers, shows not only Warp's continued adherence and devotion to the wants of the artists as much as the listeners, but Autechre's seeming contentment to place their early material in an opulent mausoleum for the sake of would-be offspring. As progenitors of a distinct, near-glitch take on the fucking retarded genre label of "IDM" (what an awful name), Ae are amongst the best and least "down-moment," bar none. While fans can easily pass off Aphex Twin's smojphace or his ridiculously rare Analogue Bubblebath releases and Squarepusher freaks can circumvent that whole Chaos A.D. thing, Autechre inhabits a zone of their own necessity where each track becomes vital. At its core, Autechre stand out from the pack due to the simple fact that there are two of them, and they aren't related, unlike BoC - and that they manage to consistently befuddle as much as entertain on a cerebral level beyond the genre typification. So now we stand knowing the general outlook here, but there are eleven years and eleven EPs to cover here, albeit briefly. Starting from minute one, track one, EP one to the eleventh track on the fifth disc, hour five, minute forty, this is a massive undertaking for both artist and label; a loving labor that extends through all years represented.

From the start of Cavity Job, the immediate distance from material as early as Amber is noticeable. A duo of hard hitting straight UK hardcore tracks, the ability to craft long, repetitive tracks that never try not only becomes the showcased feature as much as the music, it sets the historical importance of this as an EP for the band and the genre. Not yet at the point of abstraction, 'Cavity Job' wittily utilizes a dental drill sample and rides a hard-hitting rhythm without a single real glitch or click for more than six minutes that pass by with no fatiguing, a Shepherd's tone of sorts. Alone, the EP offers the sort of older relic fetishism that a 12" can inspire; as a first release for the duo in question, it is akin to the old photos of dusty albums; the fond but aged memory preserved in some dated form. Similar to the Ventolin remixes, the Basscad EP retexturizes and remakes 'Basscadet' in such vastly different ways that it seems unfair to call it a remix let alone a relational being to the original. After Anti- and the absolutely pivotal Garbage, the unsure zone starts for critics.

In the time I spent listening to the EPs, I often found myself mindlessly falling into the Wikipedia rabbit hole, leapfrogging from article to article about what I was listening to, the history of the book I'm reading, and other random nothings that had no bearing on me other than guiding my attention through the umpteenth listen to whatever EP happened to be on. During that time spent in digital isolation, it could not be unnoticed that the period from around Anvil Vapre to Peel Session 2 (one of the final EPs in the set) marked a divisive period that has since continued to some degree. While critics and fans alike could agree that albums like Amber and particularly Confield were some combination of damn good and remarkably influential or important in some way to both music and Autechre, the time spent between albums and even with them on certain occasions (LP5) parted listeners like no previous effort. I, for one, belong to a party that believes that, when taken as a whole and in context to other releases we now have (Draft 7.30, Untilted, etc.), everything makes sense and can be truly savoured as it happens as much as in retrospect and contemplation. It could be the numbing to their more supposedly grating releases like Cichlisuite - which I happen to really enjoy, that I seem to have after spending time with Ryoji Ikeda's datascapes, but I tend to favour these more outrà releases and outbursts, savouring the cyclic tendencies as much as the fidgety mind of the random-access memory. What others view as grating, dull, or even unemotional or uninspired is instead an exhilarating look into the far edges of "intelligence" in "dance music" and generative composition as rhythmic art. Former inclinations of soft melodies and measured chords that were once things of beauty to behold remain, but often in fragments and figments, sometimes as swelling pulses and constants. The security of change unsettles and motivates; it forces the brain to twist around it, or so it would seem.

As dry and academic as I may make Autechre's sound seem, or as clinical as they may even sound at first listen, they almost revel in the straight faced seriousness of such inherently playful works. In the inorganic nature of their music Autechre finds the human element's place. In the lines of endless code, webs of inlets, outlets, bang objects, and connections they find where man guides the maelstrom. Yes, they rely on digital technology to perform but it seems that it is easily forgotten that they put effort into their means of production, and it shows in the sound. Now, I'll end there since I don't want to seem like some polemicist and can just as easily argue that they are cold and machine-like and doing great things and taking great pains to show how far removed humans can be from the creative process while still maintaining the inherent use of some carbon-based life form behind the helm, but that's for another day. With typical aplomb, Autechre weave through each collection of releases weaving together increasingly more disparate parts into a mosaic of a career.

I am not sure if it was Autechre's or Warp's choice to push the limits of the CD here, but with five discs each verging on overfull data-wise one will almost certainly be kept happy (or at the very least interested) for quite some time. The time sink that is the act of listening to an album becomes more whole, more enjoyable, and more transparent with this much material of this kind of quality. As indispensable as it is simply pleasurable, EPs 1991-2002 will surely serve as the ultimate proof of Autechre's standing. This is a collection for the listener, for history, and for anybody interested in any combination of the following: the band, the label, and sound. Unfettered fanboyism aside, EPs 1991-2002 already places as a flagship release for Warp and a hugely notable point in Autechre's life, and ultimately that is worth more on some non-physical level than can be stated for anybody adventurous enough to take on the collection. Photobucket