Rescued From The Fire: Martyn on Autechre’s Incunabula

An ongoing series in which we ask artists the record they’d risk life and limb to save from a burning inferno

Martyn is a Dutch DJ, producer, old school raver and former Academy lecturer who first made his name in drum‘n’bass before becoming a master of techno-fied dubstep pulse. In this edition of Rescued From The Fire, he might feel safe in his pragmatism, but should the smoke fill the room, he knows which record offers him head space in Artificial Intelligence.

Autechre Incunabula  (Warp, 1993)

Pretty much an unanswerable question – which record would I try and save from a house fire? First of all, I live in an apartment and we have an electric stove, so a kitchen fire would be a little less likely. Secondly, my vinyl is spread across different addresses; a small amount of it I have with me at all times here in our apartment in the suburbs of Washington DC, but the bulk of it is in storage in The Netherlands. Thirdly, most people nowadays have more music in digital format than on vinyl or CD, so they'd answer something daft like, “I’d save my hard drive,” rather than a specific title of a record they love. This has also affected the way vinyl is valued by people: with the ready availability of a lot of music in digital format, the loss of an important vinyl record has less and less to do with losing the actual music on it, and more with losing an artifact, a relic that carries special memories of someone or something.

A defining moment for me as a lover and collector of music, and, looking back, as a musician, was 1993. I was raving it out on a weekly basis in these two clubs that played Chicago/Detroit as well as more clubby house music, and going to concerts of my favourite bands, and it was kind of an exciting time in music. I listened to things like Meat Beat Manifesto, Front 242, Fierce Ruling Diva – as well as club-based stuff like early Strictly Rhythm. But besides all that, it was the Warp Artificial Intelligence series that really captured my imagination. It was electronic music, but it left behind the club and was true head music, to zone out to at home, and Autechre took it completely abstract. Their Incunabula album just seemed to have no resemblance to real world sounds, not even to synthesizer music, apart from an 808. It was so out of this world, I frankly had no idea where to place it, but it captivated me and I wanted to hear more and more of it.

Autechre - Bike

Also the artwork (one of Designers Republic’s best covers, in my opinion) was puzzling, the ‘Ae’ logo, the weird band name (how were you supposed to pronounce it?), the weird track names such as “Maetl” and “Kalpol Introl”, and the sort of ‘broken’ digital image, it all added to the mystique of the music. Yeah, electronic head music for broken machines, is what I would classify it as. Many people would say Amber was Autechre's best album, and maybe it is, but Incunabula started the revolution, at least for me. A track like “Bike” is right up there in my all time top 10, so incredibly delicate and subtle and emotional, juxtaposed by a badass bassline (play loud or don’t play at all!). To this day I listen to this album regularly, and still love it as much as when I first picked it up. Yes, I am a sentimental person and proud of it! It showed me that electronic music can be right up there with the most sophisticated forms of music. So, next time your uncle who loves contemporary classical music says electronics are for raves and kids, play him this album.

By Martyn on August 24, 2012

On a different note