Rob Brown, left, and Sean Booth of Autrechre. Courtesy The Windish Agency
Rob Brown, left, and Sean Booth of Autrechre. Courtesy The Windish Agency

Autechre and Hadid: A creative parallel



Lying open on my desk is a copy of Hadid: Complete Works 1979-2009, a lavishly illustrated retrospective of design work by the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. It is the largest book I have ever possessed: coffee tables groan beneath it. It was sent to me by mistake. When Taschen, the publisher, wrote to ask if The National might be interested in reviewing it, they forget to mention that it came out nearly two years ago. And so now here it is, an enigmatic and slightly dated paper megalith, resting beside my workstation. One hesitates to draw a parallel with Hadid's actual work. Nevertheless, I was put in mind of it when another career retrospective landed with an only slightly smaller thud in my postbox.

A five-disc singles collection, EPs 1991-2002, by the Manchester electronic duo Autechre, covers many of the same years as the Hadid book. It also traces a strikingly similar artistic development. Indeed, inasmuch as this can be said for work in two distinct media, Autechre and Hadid seem to have remarkably similar creative philosophies - the kind of philosophy, in fact, that one might have if one regarded oneself as "a creative". Hadid's design treatments even look a little like Autechre sleeve art: spacious geometrical configurations arranged around dense thickets of abstract complexity, often with a crystalline, geological character.

Yet the resemblance goes deeper than that. Both Autechre and Hadid represent an extreme expression of a technologically determinist strain in art. Both increasingly make work that feels like it was in some sense self-generated, emerging from autonomous, self-regulating mechanisms. Hadid, whose Sheikh Zayed Bridge opened late last year and whose Performing Arts Centre is under construction on Saadiyat Island, is the (disputed) figurehead of an avant-garde school known as Parametricism. This is "the great new style after modernism", according to Patrik Schumacher, the movement's self-appointed spokesman and a partner at Zaha Hadid Architects. Hadid herself tends not to say much about her programme.

Parametricism's aesthetic is based on a combination of shattered angularity and what topologists call "continuous deformation". Schumacher exhorts followers to "interarticulate, hybridise, morph", and recommends a method based on letting computer algorithms operate within certain fixed parameters ("use splines, nurbs, generative components, script rather than model", he advises). Hence the later Hadid's famous "fluid spaces", the warped and molten-looking forms of her buildings, where walls twist to become floors or furniture, and distinctions between interior and exterior melt away.

The later Autechre material (post-1997) emerges from similar preoccupations. Autechre are the great survivors of what was obnoxiously called "Intelligent Dance Music", or IDM for short, a movement that flourished on the aptly named Sheffield label Warp. IDM cannibalised sounds and textures from the heroic early days of rave culture, twisting them into rhythmically tricksy, endlessly detailed new patterns. Along with Aphex Twin and Squarepusher and lesser scene figures (Richard Devine, for instance), Autechre developed an idiom of sweetly enveloping synthesiser melodies and pointedly superhuman drum-machine parts. Snare rolls accelerated until they registered less as a beat than as a harsh pitch, swirling around the melody. Beats were skittering, tinny, hyperactively pinging around stereo space. Everything seemed the wrong size, the wrong speed, the wrong way up, connected to the wrong things. Spelt wrong, too: the scene loved nonsense titles, anagrams and sc-ifi portmanteaus: see Aphex Twin's Ruglen Holon or, from the present Autechre collection, Liccflii, Yessland, Netlon Sentinel.

At the time the music had a fearsome reputation, heightened by the body-horror imagery and alienating, hackerish sense of humour that Chris Cunningham developed in his videos for many of the artists. But in fact many of IDM's distinctive qualities, its glitchiness and cold ferocity, were absorbed into mainstream pop and advertising quite rapidly. Autechre themselves, Rob Brown and Sean Booth, rarely discussed the uses their stylistic innovations have been put to. Interviews tended to focus on technological issues, and on bluff protestations of unpretentiousness: "at heart, we're just a pair of DJs", that kind of thing.

Still, whether they were trying to distance themselves from corporate imitators of simply following the dictates of their own hermetic project, they kept pushing deeper into foreign territory. Around 2000, they effectively stopped making dance music: the rhythms on EP7 and their great album Confield were too abstract to dance to. Many of them were generated - recall the Schumacher quotes above - using semi-random algorithms. And yet, however skittish and assaultive they became, they never quite lost that sheen of high-tech efficiency. Listening to abrasive bits of Autechre now, they call to mind those Citroën ads in which a car transforms into a breakdancing robot. It's Vorsprung durch Technik applied to music.

Here again, the comparison with Hadid is irresistible. The standard complaint about Parametricism is that it is an avant-garde for sale: that its very indifference to ideological questions about how people should live make it attractive to big corporate patrons who just want a conversation piece as a head office (for instance, the Hadid-designed BMW building in Leipzig). Parametricism feels bold and modern, but it doesn't say anything.

As a matter of fact, Hadid herself has expressed a certain wistful desire to take on the kind of grand social project that addresses the "architectural building-blocks of life" - schools, hospitals and the like. But it hasn't happened: the market for it isn't there. In any case, according to the architecture critic Owen Hatherley, Hadid's overwhelming computer-generated profusion of impossible forms actually embodies something in the ethos of high-tech high finance.

"Displays of beyond-human formal complexity," he wrote in Mute magazine last year, "drop out of the computational design systems employed in the search for exoticism and difference - difference that was demanded by the market pluralism of ultra capitalism." Perhaps, he suggested, the very energy of her work, "the sense of something ruthlessly and relentlessly crushing all competitors", speaks to the CEO soul.

Not that any of this should be read as a condemnation, either of Hadid or of Autechre. There is a reason why Hadid is the most talked-about architect of her generation, and it isn't just that she has powerful patrons. In the context of her peers, the postmodernists faffing half-heartedly with vernacular forms and structural expressionists settling into their own bland set of allegedly anti-style stylistic conventions, there's something galvanising about Hadid's decisiveness, about the flamboyant violence of her work. Likewise, Autechre have made some of the most adventurous electronic music there is. Even when a later generation of artists - the dubstep producers - started moving in a different direction, it was evident that they were having to traverse a great deal of territory that was already owned by Autechre: the fidgety, clattering percussion and wan synth melodies, the negative space and bottomless bass. Indeed, most of the celebrated releases on the Hyperdub label (Kode9's Black Sun, for instance, reviewed on these pages in May) appear primitive by comparison: all murky productions and facile, folkish structures.

Nevertheless, the way in which later artists reacted to Autechre perhaps offers a clue as to the direction we should look for in Hadid's successor-destroyers. Dubstep and its derivative genres took Autechre-like fragments and, so to speak, made themselves at home in them. They repeated snatches of limping beat and mutating synth, then worked in humanising ingredients: house keyboards, a dub toast, a couple of syllables from an R&B vocal melisma. Autechre's music always appears serenely indifferent to the listener's experience: it was like a side-effect of technology doing something else. Dubstep, with its imagery of urban guerrillas and dark haunted streets, is quintessentially about mood, even to the point of melodrama.

It goes without saying that, because of the cost and time horizons involved in building anything, one shouldn't expect a Hadid countermovement to echo dubstep's emphasis on dissent and dystopia. Those impulses wouldn't make it past the first stage of a tender process, which is probably for the best. Nevertheless, to the extent that dubstep used Autechre-like textures as just one element in a more traditional, but also perhaps more expressive, musical repertoire, one might also expect Hadid's tropes to get reabsorbed by the postmodernists in due course. And it is true that architecture's postmodernists have hardly done better than Hadid when it comes to articulating any sort of redemptive vision in their work. Nevertheless, there remains the hope that a future synthesis will announce something more than pure writhing, glittering power, however gripping that may be when encountered in the pages of a handsome book.

Ed Lake is the deputy editor of The Review.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

ZIMBABWE V UAE, ODI SERIES

All matches at the Harare Sports Club:

1st ODI, Wednesday - Zimbabwe won by 7 wickets

2nd ODI, Friday, April 12

3rd ODI, Sunday, April 14

4th ODI, Tuesday, April 16

UAE squad: Mohammed Naveed (captain), Rohan Mustafa, Ashfaq Ahmed, Shaiman Anwar, Mohammed Usman, CP Rizwan, Chirag Suri, Mohammed Boota, Ghulam Shabber, Sultan Ahmed, Imran Haider, Amir Hayat, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: DarDoc
Based: Abu Dhabi
Founders: Samer Masri, Keswin Suresh
Sector: HealthTech
Total funding: $800,000
Investors: Flat6Labs, angel investors + Incubated by Hub71, Abu Dhabi's Department of Health
Number of employees: 10

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Chef Nobu's advice for eating sushi

“One mistake people always make is adding extra wasabi. There is no need for this, because it should already be there between the rice and the fish.
“When eating nigiri, you must dip the fish – not the rice – in soy sauce, otherwise the rice will collapse. Also, don’t use too much soy sauce or it will make you thirsty. For sushi rolls, dip a little of the rice-covered roll lightly in soy sauce and eat in one bite.
“Chopsticks are acceptable, but really, I recommend using your fingers for sushi. Do use chopsticks for sashimi, though.
“The ginger should be eaten separately as a palette cleanser and used to clear the mouth when switching between different pieces of fish.”

MATCH INFO

New Zealand 176-8 (20 ovs)

England 155 (19.5 ovs)

New Zealand win by 21 runs

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Libya's Gold

UN Panel of Experts found regime secretly sold a fifth of the country's gold reserves.

The panel’s 2017 report followed a trail to West Africa where large sums of cash and gold were hidden by Abdullah Al Senussi, Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief, in 2011.

Cases filled with cash that was said to amount to $560m in 100 dollar notes, that was kept by a group of Libyans in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A second stash was said to have been held in Accra, Ghana, inside boxes at the local offices of an international human rights organisation based in France.

The specs

Engine: 4-cylinder 2-litre
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Power: 252 brake horsepower
Torque: 352Nm
Price: from Dh146,700
On sale: now

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

Kill Bill Volume 1

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine and Michael Madsen
Rating: 4.5/5

Super 30

Produced: Sajid Nadiadwala and Phantom Productions
Directed: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Srivastav, Mrinal Thakur
Rating: 3.5 /5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

How to come clean about financial infidelity
  • Be honest and transparent: It is always better to own up than be found out. Tell your partner everything they want to know. Show remorse. Inform them of the extent of the situation so they know what they are dealing with.
  • Work on yourself: Be honest with yourself and your partner and figure out why you did it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for professional help. 
  • Give it time: Like any breach of trust, it requires time to rebuild. So be consistent, communicate often and be patient with your partner and yourself.
  • Discuss your financial situation regularly: Ensure your spouse is involved in financial matters and decisions. Your ability to consistently follow through with what you say you are going to do when it comes to money can make all the difference in your partner’s willingness to trust you again.
  • Work on a plan to resolve the problem together: If there is a lot of debt, for example, create a budget and financial plan together and ensure your partner is fully informed, involved and supported. 

Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo

Power: 181hp

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now

What is a Ponzi scheme?

A fraudulent investment operation where the scammer provides fake reports and generates returns for old investors through money paid by new investors, rather than through ligitimate business activities.

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre direct injection turbo
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Power: 261hp
Torque: 400Nm
Price: From Dh134,999

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Five calorie-packed Ramadan drinks

Rooh Afza
100ml contains 414 calories
Tang orange drink
100ml serving contains 300 calories
Carob beverage mix
100ml serving contains about 300 calories
Qamar Al Din apricot drink
100ml saving contains 61 calories
Vimto fruit squash
100ml serving contains 30 calories

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Results

Final: Iran beat Spain 6-3.

Play-off 3rd: UAE beat Russia 2-1 (in extra time).

Play-off 5th: Japan beat Egypt 7-2.

Play-off 7th: Italy beat Mexico 3-2.