There are plenty of DJs out there who can craft smoothly flowing sets out of rhythmically diverse tracks. But even the most freewheeling beat-mashing hasn't prevented some listeners from becoming dissatisfied with the regimented rhythms that inform most dance music. Hence, the rise of so-called "IDM" -- intelligent dance music, a body of electronic music that possesses few defining characteristics other than a blatant disregard for the standard palette of tones, textures, and rhythms. That disregard has never been illustrated so clearly as with the latest album from Autechre, the U.K. duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown.
Most of the compositions on Confield start in rather benign ways, from the crisp electro of "Cfern" to the post-drum 'n' bass glitch workout of "Sim Gishel," but in due time, the rhythms begin to fall apart in fascinating ways, as if the sequencer that keeps each individual percussive component in place is letting them randomly shift in and out of sync. Slowly, as the beats reconfigure themselves, new patterns evolve. The whole process has an organic feel, as if entropy has taken control, and the results are very rewarding. On other tracks, Autechre's rhythmic agenda is not so clear. The jumbled pulse of "Bine," with its intensely gritty flow of pin-drop pitter patter and grimy hissing, sounds like a supermagnified field recording of a sloth bathing and grooming itself. A clattering array of beats and some rubbery bass pops give "Lentic Catachresis" a claustrophobic feeling of pressurized decay. In short, Confield is a challenging listen, and depending on what kind of mood you're in, you'll be just as likely to turn it off within five minutes amid head-shaking astonishment as you will be to trip out all the way through the disc.