Appropriately enough, Exai concludes with the most mysterious tune on the album. Once again they defy any attempt at reading a meaning into the title with “YJY UX,” but that is the least of the ambiguity of this 8:25 piece. Much like the entire two-disc set, “YJY UX” could be considered a musical journey, one in which Autechre displays the wide variety of sonic ingredients they use to such impressive effect.
Electronic music of this sort is never going to cross over in a big way, but it did once, back at the turn of the millennium. Radiohead’s Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) may have seemed to come out of the blue to their fans, but for those of us who had been listening to Autechre, the music was quite familiar. Kid A sent me back to the glorious tones of Amber, and remains my favorite Radiohead recording.
The “blips” that the duo have added to their music over the years are present throughout Exai, and may be the most off-putting aspect to would-be fans. There is no denying the fact that the cacophonous sound will get your attention. Coupled with the ambient textures that they are so adept at, they create music unlike anyone else. I must say that the two-hour, 17-song Exai is as good as anything I have ever heard by them. 20 years on, it is hard to believe that they are still making not only relevant, but deeply challenging music.
Having listened to Exai a few times now, I see that great care has been taken in programming the set. I am not quite prepared to call Exai Autechre’s all-time best, but it is definitely a contender. I can say without a doubt though that it will stand as one of my top picks of 2013.