The banjo, that old bluegrass staple, has been making a piecemeal incursion into abstract electronics with curious dedication for who knows how long. It's kind of the perfect instrument/electronic composition mesh, a sound as supple and meditative as a producer could possibly hope. And as suspended with a very alien-sounding harpsichord over a powerful field of aural negative space--as in, a vertiginous quieter-than-quiet--on the track "known(1)," it makes a nice signifier as to the new road that Autechre, the duo of Rob Brown and Sean Booth, takes on Oversteps, its 10th record.
This is not the glitched-out/IDM-hop Autechre of a good number of those previous records, which--in these fruitful days of Flying Lotus, Daedelus, and Nosaj Thing doing exceptional abstract hip-hop/IDM--is particularly notable. That said, it is still Autechre and, particularly on a track like the slow motion futurist boom-bap of "Treale," plenty so. But, like that not-that-oddball banjo, Oversteps is a fine and unique mesh. It wouldn't be quite fair to call this an ambient record--the percussive hiccups and murky electro cut through the mostly synth-based cloudforms like heat lightning. It's soft and nonthreatening, but potent.
More than anything, the synthesis is, well, friendly: It's easy-listening Autechre. And Brown and Booth are extremely good at transcending genre convention--the creepy electronic symphonics of opener "r ess"; the reversal-filled chime melodies of "O=0"; the widespread synth fuckery of the last third of the record--and for the non-Autechre, glitch-addict mega-fan, it might just add up to more than the sum of its parts.