It's said that when Michelangelo created the sculpture "David," he considered himself "releasing" it from the stone. He didn't just chisel down a piece of rock, he removed what wasn't art until he saw the figure that he envisioned. You can hear that sort of thinking in "Spangle," Autechre's remix of the Seefeel recording.
The original track is age-old by electronic music's standards first released on Warp Records' 1994 Artificial Intelligence II collection but this remix is new and eagerly awaited by fans of both groups. The sleeve provides some clues as to the complex partnership at work: its title implies that it's first and foremost an Autechre work, not just a "remix by Autechre." The small print, however, lists Seefeel for their original production, with Autechre contributing "additional enhancements." The British gift, perhaps, for understatement.
Sean Booth and Rob Brown, Autechre's alter egos, strip almost everything from the original "Spangle," laying bare its ending motif. That short motif which sounds like a whale singing gets used doubly in reverse. Not only does it start (instead of finish) the 12-minute track, but the two notes are inverted so that the original's wave goodbye becomes a question hanging in the air. It takes on a tone of anxiousness that carries through the track. Broad strokes of sound start rolling in; combined with the whale singing, so far it feels surprisingly organic. The combined sounds are at times ominous and at other times hint at an increasing velocity.
That velocity is supplied by the sinewy Autechre beats that you've been waiting
for, simple but deft, and they propel the song ahead as things get darker. There's
a rhythm that's not completely unlike some of the tracks on 2001's Confield,
particularly "Sim Gishel" and "Uviol," but hollower, dampened. It's a good foil
for the sonorous tones that gradually get behind the beats, then in front as
the rhythm recedes. By the end you're left with just the tones and ever-haunting
whale singing, but the rhythm, even though silent, is there in the slightly metallic
change to the sounds, and when it ends it's not an exhalation, but it's not just
noise fading away either.
The two groups complement each other well. Autechre provide some of the depth
that they seem to add to everything they touch, while Seefeel keep them from
getting too cold. Without resorting to clichés about "musicians' musicians," it's
easy to see why bands like Saint Etienne and Stereolab come to Autechre for remixes there's
an intelligence and discipline to their work, from the skeletal rhythm that doesn't
necessarily follow a clear pattern to the paring down of integral song elements,
thatís interesting in that brow-furrowing way.
People who like music theory like Autechre. But "Spangle" also shows what a band
such as Seefeel (comprising Mark Clifford, Sarah Peacock, Daren Seymour, and
Justin Fletcher) can give to Autechre. There's an unidentifiable difference in
the music that comes out of a band, compared to a duo such as Autechre, and Seefeel's
earlier guitar and indie-rock work expresses their interest in making electronic
things sound natural and vice versa. They throw some soil into the mix, and instead
of jamming up the equipment it makes it earthier and conversational. It's deep
and resonant and swirls right around you.