BBH: Lego Feet, Lego Feet

[Skam]


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Before Autechre were Autechre, they were, for the briefest of moments, Lego Feet. Rob Brown and Sean Booth’s 1991 LP under the moniker came and very quickly went on Manchester’s Skam label, where another purported Autechre offshoot, Gescom, put forth its peculiar discography. In the more than 20 years that have passed since it dropped, it’s developed the kind of mythic aura (and Discogs prices) that such prequels occasionally emanate. Having been far, far too young to experience Lego Feet the first time around (and too poor, or at least not desperately curious enough, to seek out the original vinyl release), I was thrilled to see Skam’s expanded CD reissue in my local record shop this winter. Skam’s website reports that, “due to the amount of death threats, begging letters, and ransom notes,” Lego Feet will once again be available on vinyl soon. And I’m genuinely thrilled to report it offers more than just a curio collection for Autechre completists: while the aforementioned will undoubtedly appreciate a window into Brown and Booth before they’d fully come into their Autechreness, students of dance music in general will enjoy hearing the gamut of 1980s dance music tropes cracking at their foundations.

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To speak of Lego Feet as anything but a single work is basically pointless: as on the original, where the usual visual delineations between cuts were absent, the CD contains no individual tracks, just four lengthy CD skip points packed sardine-like with shorter pieces. Start the thing up and you’re quickly caught in a web of punchy 303 lines, turntable cuts, noisy drum machines, and ever-present tape hiss — at its release, a kind of textbook summation of electronic dance music thus far. But Lego Feet’s soundworld hardly sounds like the work of producers content to merely report on a decade of musical trends and technologies. DJs will find no bangers here, just the stuff of bangers past pushed to the limits of genre-recognition. To my ears, Lego Feet is the sound of the 80s beset with scowl and acne, an agitated and deeply angsty iteration of musics embracing their awesomely awkward adolescence. Autechre fans will certainly draw parallels with Incunabula, the duo’s debut-in-earnest, and legions of outspoken Discogs doubters may find it their most easily digestible record save Amber. But the essence of what made Autechre Autechre — that willingness to let the bugs in your code evolve into complex organisms, no matter how sinister their machinations — is only suggested here. If Warp’s massive (and essential) EPS 1991 – 2002 reissue brought that essence into focus like no other single Autechre missive could, then Lego Feet shows where the group began carving out its singular niche — not to mention whence came some of the weirdest electronic excursions of the 1990s.

Nick  on February 12, 2012 at 7:13 AM

Great review, Jordan.

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