Autechre's first album, released by Warp in 1993, back when "intelligent dance music" meant something. Autechre had been floating around for a few years (Cavity Job EP, anyone?), most notably contributing two decent tracks to the first Artificial Intelligence release, but Incunabula was the band's first real winner.

Not surprisingly, Ae's debut is their least experimental album, comprising mostly straightforward ambient techno. Although the case could easily be made that Incunabula is the band's least rewarding listen, it also stands out as Booth and Brown's most accessible effort. In my opinion, it's a very good ambient album, and one that no Ae aficionado should be without. It strecthes a bit long -- 77 minutes is one long-ass LP. However, the seeds of Autechre's wild experimentation can be heard here in the little quirks of "Autriche" and especially "Basscadet", Autechre's first hit. "444" is sweeping, epic techno for everyone. Anyone who likes Orbital's early work should feel right at home here.


  1. Kalpol Introl
  2. Bike
  3. Autriche
  4. Bronchus 2
  5. Basscadet
  6. Eggshell
  7. Doctrine
  8. Maetl
  9. Windwind
  10. Lowride
  11. 444

Incunabula refers to a book printed before 1500. The derivation of the word incunabula is Latin, meaning "in the cradle". This term is used because printing using movable type was in its infancy at the time.

Johann Gutenberg printed the Gutenberg bible in Mainz, Germany in 1454-55, the first book printed using movable type in the West. Between 1455 and 1499, inclusive, about 40-50,000 titles were printed, totalling 8-12 million books. This is about as many books as were created in the West in the 1150 years prior to 1455.

Incunabula is also used to refer to manuscript books created before 1500.

I do not want to get into the discussion of exactly what Gutenberg did here. That is better addressed in the Johann Gutenberg node or Gutenberg Bible node.

The Latin word incunabulum (plural incunabula, and sometimes anglicized as incunable) literally means cradle, and more loosely refers to the infancy, birthplace or origin of something. It is most often used in reference to early printed books, and in this sense an incunabulum is further defined even more specifically as being a book printed using moveable type prior to the year 1501AD.

Before the invention of printing using moveable type, books were copied by hand, word for word, letter by letter, by scribes, generally onto parchment or vellum. Obviously, this was an extremely laborious and time-consuming method, and the level of production was minimal -- not to mention the potential for errors during transcription. Later, the method of block printing was devised (i.e. in Europe, as this method had been used for centuries in the Orient) wherein the entire text for a page was cut into wood and thus printed, although even this method was rather labour-intensive as well. However, great care was often undertaken in the reproduction of books in both of these ways, and the pages were often subsequently "illuminated" with wonderful illustrations and ornaments. Some of the most beautiful books ever made come from the time before the invention of printing with moveable type, and the first books which were printed using this latter method endeavoured to emulate that beauty and form.

There are still many, many contemporary artisans who practice hand-bookbinding in a manner not all that dissimilar to the methods used by Gutenberg, and even the invention of digital media has not changed that in many respects. Although virtually anyone with a computer and word processing software can now typeset documents easily and effectively without having to resort the laborious process of sorting and inserting individual letters into a press, still the endeavour of cutting and folding the papers, hand-sewing the final signatures, gluing the spine and completing one's creation complete with gold-foil decoration and trim and securely bound in leather is no simple task and requires not hours or even days of practice, but many years of apprenticeship before one can truly call oneself a master of the art.

On the other hand, some might argue that modern methods of printing have been a blessing with regard to readability of text (as opposed to, say, blackletter type), more consistency and user-friendly, portable formats, etc., not to mention the way in which modern technology and computers have increased the speed of publishing to the point that what might have taken Gutenberg and his contemporaries an entire year to print can now be done in a day, or even just a few hours. Yet, there's something to be said for all those "old books", something far greater than just looking upon them as mere stepping stones to what our great publishing industry has become today. Other than that minority of publishers who still value and practice the art of hand-bookbinding, quite simply they just don't make them like they used to, and that statement is made very much in deference to the true beauty and timelessness of those early works in this art -- for works of art they were indeed, with each book being a genuine reflection of not only the author of the words, but of the paper-maker, the printer and typesetter, the artist who created whatever woodcuts might have been used to illustrate the pages, and the binder who painstakingly sewed, glued, pressed and tooled each and every volume by hand. Nowadays we might browse through bookstores and some flashy cover might catch our eye, we'll pick it up, flip it over, read the blurb on the back and maybe flip a few pages to see if the words contained therein might hold some attraction for us, but to peruse the shelves of an antiquarian bookseller and discover some curious volume is a much more complete experience. It's not only the words on the pages that we might read and find pleasure in, in fact it might not be the words at all! Beyond the meaning of the text that might feed our mind in some way, the type face with which that text is printed can be a feast for the eyes in itself, and often reason enough for the purchase of some quaint volume. And even more it can be an experience for many senses, for one can take great pleasure in the binding itself, or the illustrations, the endpapers, or any other manner in which the work was enhanced and adorned. One can feel something so unique in an old book that is so rarely there in any contemporary mass-produced volume, and even smell the history of every home and every hand that ever cherished it. To hold one of these works in one's hands is so much more than just holding a great string of words printed on numerous pages all glued together at the edge, but rather to hold the very soul and life-blood of all those craftsmen and artisans who lived so many hundreds of years ago.

more at:

Collections of incunabula are held by the

  1. British Library, London
  2. Library of Congress, Washington
  3. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Münich
  4. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome
  5. Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, Lyon
  6. Bibliothèque Nationale, Brussels
  7. Bodleian Library, Oxford
  8. Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche, Rome
  9. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino
  10. Instituto Nacional do Livro, Lisbon
  11. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague
of which the most famous is the Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book, thus the first incunabula, many copies exist, in various conditions.

Album: Incunabula
Artist: Autechre
Label: Warp Records
Released: 1993-11-29
Summary: Sublime and otherworldly in just enough places to warrant a listen.

If B12's Electro-Soma is background music, Autechre's Incunabula takes you on a journey. Best listened to with headphones and your undivided attention, it's an ethereal soundscape above all else.

The first track, Kalpol Introl, is a crescendo of breathtaking beauty. Sparse, squishy bass sounds run through a delay take centre stage, soon joined by an atmospheric pad and quirky, hissing percussion. The overall result is as sublime as it is otherworldly.

Overlapping with the end of Kalpol Introl is the beginning of the slightly more down-to-Earth Bike (if you were hoping to include them in a randomised playlist, I'd recommend joining these two tracks together, as they go well together anyway). This is where a regular drum machine makes its first appearance, providing a more familiar type of percussion: a repetitive rhythm. Combined with the sort of synthetic bassline that you feel more than hear, and delayed melodic synths with quick envelope settings on the higher frequencies, this is another wonderfully atmospheric track.

Autriche starts off with an inviting, warm pad and distant talking, swiftly accompanied with another rhythm on the analogue drum machine, but in my opinion spoils it with the inclusion of a grating timbre for the main melody.

Bronchus 2 sounds like someone plucking a long, twangy, metal cable, drenched in delays and reverb. This one just leaves me with the feeling that I missed the point of the track entirely.

Basscadet is rhythmically more upbeat, yet with a haunting atmosphere and a distorted timbre that all add up to create a jarring sound. Slightly scary stuff.

Eggshell is much more my cup of tea. It's more laid back and sounds to me more like it's trying to convey a sense of wonder than fear. By all rights, it should sound too repetitive: a mere two chords provide the musical setting for nine minutes' worth of music. By the time the second melody arrives, however, Autechre have proven they can pull such a feat off. The music flies by all too quickly.

In my opinion, Autechre sound like they're trying too hard to be clever with the confusing percussion at the beginning of the next track, Doctrine. It soon starts making sense when put in context (albeit a rather loud context). The actual melodies and harmonies are nice for the most part, as long as you can get past the loud clanging of the rhythm.

Moving on, Maetl is slightly more calm, yet still fueled by a clangy beat. Its melody seems almost bittersweet, and once the pads fade in, it fits in much better with the album's overall spooky, otherworldly feel.

At over eleven minutes long, the next track, Windwind, is an epic offering. Its seemingly unrelated components, which fit together so well, feel like a continuation of the opening track. The epic pad, combined with all the interesting underlying parts, creates a soundscape that makes you wonder just what untold adventure inspired this piece.

Lowride chills you back down again. While not breathtaking, it provides a much needed rest.

The last track, 444, is another dramatic affair. Using intense harmonies, it takes you on a final journey before letting you go. The unintrusive rhythm takes a back seat to the delayed synthetic sounds playing the strange music.

Whether I would recommend this album depends on the individual listener. It has its bad points as well as its beautiful moments. Personally, I found the sublime journey that the album took me on to be worth tracking it down. I tend to only listen to roughly half of the tracks that it has to offer, but I wouldn't want to part with them. It's a quirky release worth at least a listen by anyone curious as to how unusual music can sound while remaining good.

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