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.