The pairing of Autechre and The Hafler Trio on paper might seem a bit odd, considering Autechre are known for their mind-bending programming workouts and the recent output of The Hafler Trio has focused more on drone-based atmospherics, but that hasn't stopped the two from teaming up for a second round. Their initial collaboration came out a couple years back and with aeo³ ³hae find themselves plumbing some of the same weird depths of the debut, as well as branching out in directions that will surprise (and test) most listeners.
Split into two discs (with one track filling each disc), the two pieces combine for over eighty minutes of uneasy music that basically mix the two aforementioned sounds in ways that make for some odd dynamics and jarring juxtapositions. The first disc ("aeo³") opens with almost inaudible sound before deep low end sweeps and higher ringing tones and pings fill the speakers and wash over one another. About halfway through, some shifting rumbles drift in before turning into digital crackling and artifacts. This crackling in turn bursts into spluttering, noisy shards of electronics for almost eight minutes, finally falling out of the mix again before it drifts back into very quiet drones to close things out.
The second disc ("³hae") opens with a haunted-house groan and creek before settling into higher droning washes. Whereas the first disc seemed to concern itself more with deeper sounds, the second one moves through slightly sharper, more abrasive tones during the first section before dropping off into a near-quiet middle punctuated by sharp clicks and thumps. The latter half of the disc fades up from a deep, deep drone into a more layered close, with slightly metallic, shimmering layers drifting in over the top. After starting out more directly sinister, the disc offers a slow build in which there really isn't much of a release.
As a whole, aeo³ ³hae feels pretty lackluster given the big names involved. Despite the absolutely beautiful, mysterious packaging, the drones and sounds on the release don't really offer anything new from either artist. Mackenzie has been much better on his own on recent EP releases (and on his great collaboration with Jonski from Sigur Ros), while Autechre doesn't really seem to do much here other than offer the mindsplitting digital freakout on the first disc (although to be honest, the roles of the musicians could be completely reversed). Regardless of who is doing what, this is a release that could have easily been pared down to one disc and made much better as a listening experience.