Music Reviews
Draft 7.30

Autechre Draft 7.30

(Warp) Rating - 8/10

I first heard Autechre's last full-length release, Confield, on a crowded bus. I had just bought it, torn off the cellophane, and was now sitting eagerly awaiting what my favourite IDM duo, Sean Booth and Rob Brown, had cooked up for me. The 'song' that followed, VI Scose Poise was certainly something of a surprise, and as I sat, stone-faced, wondering what on earth I was listening to, I'm sure those close enough to hear the frantic, confused sounds emanating from my headphones were eyeing up all available exits from their friendly public transport. Two years on, and, like my pensioner friends that fateful day, I still don't 'get' Confield. It's the accepted opinion that Booth and Brown had simply advanced so far in to the world of electronic music that us mere mortals could no longer fully understand just what they were doing. People were impressed, regardless of the inability to locate a song without extreme repeat listening. Having heard Autechre's latest LP, I'm not sure if perhaps with Confield, they had pushed the experimentation even beyond their own understanding.

That said, Draft 7.30, isn't a return to 'classic' Autechre, when everyone's favourite past-time 'Spot-the-Melody' wasn't necessary. As if to remind you that, yes, Autechre have surpassed normal music, the album opener, Xylin Room, is traditional glitch fare: spastic beats bounce from ear to ear, and drum sequencers crash in on themselves in that way Autechre have down to an artform. However, there is a definite beat, and by the time the third track, 6IE.CR kicks in, you can actually tap out the beat with your palm, without quickly developing arthritis. Crushed synth melodies struggle to break through the beats, and if you concentrate, it slowly becomes clear that these are proper tunes.

This rediscovery of structure and melody is most apparent on the album's highlight, Surripere. An 11 minute epic, the track is the finest Autechre tune for a good few years. A vicious beat attacks and recoils, as distorted minor chords lazily roll underneath. To say the track is menacing is an understatement, but there is also a beauty in the cold soundscape. Inevitably, there is - for the solitary Confield fan sitting grumpily at the back - the odd bit of chaotic sequencing present in the breakdown. The beats are restrained though, and compliments rather than hinders the track, as the melody saunters away, and the electronics take over.

It may be purely psychological, but following Surripere's thrilling ride, the 2nd half of the album is much easier to digest. While never reaching the heights of the centre-piece, the remaining five tracks further explore the dark rhythmic palette with varying degrees of success. Theme of Sudden Roundabout stutters and squeaks along, crushing a haunting Boards of Canada-esque chiming melody, and on V-Proc the hip-hop references that have dogged the press build-up for the album are most apparent. The track is undeniably funky - it may not be packing out the club dance-floors any time soon, but it's hard to stop your feet from shuffling.

So welcome back Autechre. No doubt opinions over Draft 7.30 will be deeply divided. The mathematicians deconstructing Confield's logarithms have no new meat to dig their teeth in to, but those of us who baled out when the structure was completely lost, finally have the smallest of opening back into Booth and Brown's electronic world. For once, Autechre haven't leapt forward; they're sufficiently ahead of the competition to be able to stand still a while, and let the song's they left behind catch up.