Autechre, and the Question of Quaristice

Prior to the launch of Quaristice, Autechre‘s Sean Booth said the following, in an interview with Clash Magazine, concerning the issue of whether to buy the digital download or the physical CD:

It makes no odds to me. Actually, it does; I’d prefer (people) to download it than buy it physically. It fits our agenda much better that way. Our plan has never been to produce CDs – it’s always been about making music. If there’s a way of charging for it and getting the content to people, then we’ll adopt whichever is the most transparent. The actual product is the FLAC file – but I don’t object to those who want to own something that they can hold.

In itself, this is a valuable and thought-provoking addition to the debate which has been rearing up increasingly often over the last few years. But returning to this specific example, i think one needs to consider Booth’s comments in the light of the fact that Quaristice has been released in two editions, the latter of which—including a bonus CD of re-worked and alternative versions of the tracks on the main album—was a limited edition of only 1,000 copies, with no digital download option. Is it me, or is there a contradiction here? That tracks of such quality and importance—both within Autechre’s oeuvre and electronic music more widely—should be denied to the majority of their listeners seems clearly at odds with Sean Booth’s intentions. If we are to take Booth at his word, that Autechre is only concerned with “making music” and getting it out by “the most transparent” methods possible, it’s ridiculous to release a special edition of the album in this way. Furthermore, copies are already appearing on eBay for sums well in excess of £100 (they were sold for £25), which makes Autechre’s claimed intentions even more ludicrous. Of course, the special edition could be a ruse by Warp to increase interest and generate extra income; but somehow i doubt it, as Warp has always (seemed to) put its artists’ intentions as paramount.

i think, if this bonus disc had been released as the main album, it would have appeared the more logical progression from Untilted; perhaps that’s as good a reason as any for Autechre not to have done that. The trouble is though, without wishing to take anything away from Quaristice, the bonus disc begs questions that the main album does not. While Quaristice is a confident, emphatic statement of where Autechre find themselves at the present time, the bonus disc somewhat pulls the rug from this certainty, proposing that they are less poised to move forward into new territories than we thought. Not that this is vital for an artist to do with every release; it’s just that Quaristice, by itself, does give that impression. In this sense only, the bonus disc suggests disappointment. But one can’t be too churlish about it; after all, none of my original complaint would matter terribly much if the bonus disc wasn’t so good. Dare i say it, it’s arguably better than the disc it claims merely to accompany, demonstrating, at its best, a synthesis of Autechre’s new (still, it seems, experimental) vantage point, that has resulted in Quaristice, and their previous pinnacle, the incredible skill they possess at large-scale composition, that produced the wonder that is Untilted. It’s interesting that this second disc is called Quaristice (Versions); the word “version” was, for a time, a favourite of Trent Reznor, used on the releases that featured re-workings of tracks from his main albums (Things Falling Apart uses them most prominently). It seems a much more interesting concept than simply to “remix” a track; it suggests more sense of something having been re-conceived from the fundamentals up, rather than merely taking a number of basic building blocks and re-arranging them. For the most part, this is true of the “versions” of Quaristice‘s tracks; while some are glaringly similar to their counterparts on the main disc, the majority of them are very different entities indeed, with the dyslexic titles betraying the strongest connection.

Posted on by 5:4 in CD/Digital releases
Tags:

9 Responses to Autechre, and the Question of Quaristice

  1. vils

    I am disappointed in you posting these tracks.

  2. Simon

    i disagree; Sean Booth has clearly stated Autechre’s position on this, & the concept of their music being only obtainable as a “physical object” is not one, clearly, that they wish to entertain • In any case, “owning” these tracks is utterly different from owning the physical special edition, isn’t it? • Or is it – therein lies the question at the heart of Quaristice…

  3. vils

    You keep using the word ‘clearly, but who are you to decide what Autechre’s ultimate plan was behind this release? I think you are reading too much into a single quote from a single interview with a single member of Autechre.

    Would that it have been ‘clear’ that open access be given to these tracks, I believe Autechre would have made it possible. I doubt it was a question of economics, seeing as general release double-disc sets are commonplace these days.

    You obviously decided the regular edition wasn’t ‘enough’ for you, and so decided to splurge on the limited edition. How is that you now feel like you are obligated to ‘represent’ Autechre’s best intentions by posting all of these tracks on your public blog?

    Clearly, you are making some rather hasty judgements, and so, again, I am disappointed in you posting these tracks.

  4. Frank Verhoef

    I’ve got the special edition and I’m happy they’ve done it this way.

  5. Simon

    i’m not deciding anything; Sean’s comments are emphatic on this matter, &, yes, they are very ‘clear’ • Nonetheless, since you feel unable to engage with my argument, here are two further thoughts for you:
    1) this is a release that is now OUT OF PRINT; therefore, offering it on here does not cause anyone to suffer financially; Autechre have sold all 1,000 copies of the special edition & made their £25,000;
    2) which is worse, putting them on here, with no financial implications, or selling them on eBay for a vastly inflated profit?

    Incidentally, i don’t own the Special Edition, no; i’d very much like to get my hands on a copy, but not at the ridiculous prices on eBay! •

  6. martin

    Interesting to see this disagreement between vils and simon, both of you make very valid points i think. I wonder how sean b would have defended this release in the light of the comments quoted. I won’t download it but wait a few weeks, to see if ebay prices drop (they usually do). I like to have the physical object. I already have the vinyl edition and ordered the lim ed. while this was listed at amazon for a few days, of course they did not have a copy for me. What annoys me is all those who ordered multiple copies and sells them on ebay for 100s of £. Or rips their copy and sell it. Warp / ae obviously didn’t hvae the intelligence to reduce it to one copy per person, with the result that many fans are pissed off.

  7. Chris Burkhalter

    On the question of the word “Versions,” I imagine it has a lot more to do with the heritage of dub versions, an idea which has left a massive imprint on electronic music (Basic Channel is a prime example). For more on this, peep this Wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dub_music

  8. Co-existence

    I think Quaristice Versions is Autechre’s way of giving away an album for free. And it IS better than the original Quaristice, which I bought in FLAC format the day it was released. Thank you for sharing these tracks. It is the right thing to do! I already have them and share them and I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

  9. smp

    man, who really cares?

Add a Comment

Anti-Spam Quiz: