It would all be OK, of course, if the music actually had direction. Sadly, it doesn’t, as High School Confidential opens with one of the most cack-handed attempts to cross the line between backroom boffins and live instrumentation yet committed to disc, “Lilypads A + B”. While it’s never easy to successfully integrate the new with the old—never mind trying to overcome societal norms about what exactly constitutes ‘real’ instruments nowadays anyway—these two tracks made me grit my teeth and shake my head as though I was a elementary school music teacher who’d found his charges playing “3 Blind Mice” on the recorder over Autechre. It’s the living embodiment of Ying and Yang: the Ying of guitar and bass, the Yang of the sampler and synth, forever separated, never united, sitting in opposition until the end of time. Or until the end of the track—it only seems like until the end of time.
But now that I’ve got that rant over with—there are some relics to be salvaged on this disc, providing you possess a nimble enough finger to circumvent your CD player’s programming. Last track “Arkeney, Iowa” is a gorgeous 16 minutes spent in the company of machines, blissfully free of intervention from guitar-wielding innovators, and is all the better for it. Indeed, it is exactly when the band puts their instruments down and relies, crutch-free, upon their abilities to program that the greatest dividends are earned. It makes you wonder why they didn’t just do that for the whole record, eh?