Autechre Fans Targeted By Napster Hoax

Pranksters reveal songs are really by other tech artists

InsiderOne contributing editor Philip Sherburne reports: It seemed too good to be true. For about a month tracks off Confield, Sheffield, UK duo Autechre's highly anticipated album, have been available for download via Napster. One problem: none of the songs is actually by Autechre, a group best known for its groundbreaking brand of post-Techno. Pranksters, including a member of the Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) mailing list who asked to be identified as Sonance, now admit to perpetrating a hoax on Autechre fans. Sonance said he passed off recordings by Leila, Susumu Yokota, Monolake and Autechre sound-alike Arovane as the work of Autechre.

"I thought I'd chosen pretty obvious stuff that most [Autechre] fans would already own, but apparently not," said Sonance, referring to the many Napster users who contacted him about the tracks' authenticity. "Whenever someone downloaded one of the 'fake' tracks from me, I'd tell them it was fake. Some of them refused to believe me, even when I told them what it was. Still, one guy was impressed enough with the Arovane track he went out and ordered [Arovane's] Atol Scrap and Tides the next day."

Tracks from Confield began circulating on the file-sharing service weeks ago, even though the album isn't due out until May. However, as discussion of the album began to heat up on Internet newsgroups, it came to light that many of the tracks were fakes.

There were numerous clues: to begin with, many similarly titled tracks turned out to be entirely different from one another. Some sounded like no more than a minute or two of static — nothing like Autechre's intricate beatscapes. Other songs, bearing names like "Parheric Triange" and "Sim Gishel," were quickly identified as the work of other well-known electronic musicians including Pole, Hrvatski and Christian Vogel. One track was credited as a remix by Bola, who, like Autechre, records for Warp Records. However, a Warp spokesperson said there is no such remix. In the most amusing manifestation of the scam, an alleged hidden track, listed as "Whord," would be familiar to sci-fi fans as the theme from "Dr. Who."

In addition to Sonance, other IDM list-members claimed to have authored Confield fakes themselves, but none responded to requests for interviews.

Bogus tracks on Napster are nothing new, of course; a notorious knock on Eminem was alleged to be the work of Christina Aguilera, while the narrow sphere of experimental electronic music has seen pranksters pass off "remixes" of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin.

As more and more popular CDs have appeared on Napster and other file-sharing services before their release dates — Radiohead's Amnesia is already in circulation — labels are cutting back their promotional servicing to the media. Kris Gillespie, who runs Warp's New York office, said the company was taking precautions to prevent Confield leaks. "The lockdown on digital copies circulating has been extremely curtailed intentionally," Gillespie said, adding that the U.S. press mailing has been limited to 50 vinyl test pressings, in lieu of sending out advance CDs.

In fact, the "lockdown" likely contributed to the fakes' proliferation. And get this: Warp considered just such a "guerrilla marketing" campaign for Confield. "The idea of putting up decoy tracks on Napster and letting them proliferate, like a virus, was suggested but killed," said Gillespie. "Ironically, some young IDM-lister decided to do just that on his own about a month ago. All of the original Confield Napster postings I came across were of other artists. How's the saying go? Great minds think alike, but fools seldom differ? Take your pick, I guess." [Tuesday, April 24, 2001]

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