AUTECHRE: EP7 (1999)
1) Rpeg; 2) Ccec; 3) Squeller; 4) Left Blank; 5) Outpt; 6) Dropp; 7) Liccflii; 8) Maphive 6.1; 9) Zeiss Contarex; 10) Netlon Sentinel; 11) Pir.
As you may have noticed, I generally leave Autechre's EPs unreviewed — most of them can be viewed as little satellites of the accompanying LPs, and dedicating separate space to them would be a waste of time more often than not — but this particular release is actually a combination of two EPs, released separately as EP1 and EP2, and, in between them, running for about an hour. Since there is no principal thematic difference between the two anyway, it is easier to simply think about the whole thing as one more large opus, and tackle it that way.
Not that there is any grand new world to tackle here. Both EPs seem like temporary stopgaps to me, continuing the generally stable Autechre pattern: «one conceptual breakthrough» — «one well-crafted, but lazy follow-up, fed by the old formulae». The only curious thing about EP7, in that respect, is that it is the first (or at least the first large-size) Autechre release to feature a limited amount of vocal samples (on ʽCoecʼ and ʽZeiss Contarexʼ). If there is any effect to it, it's most likely to be «disorientation» — all the vocals are garbled and run through Booth and Brown's precious waves of static, so that you get impressions of degraded biopatterns stuck in Star Trek transporters or something like that.
Static, by the way, heavily dominates these EPs, even if, altogether, there may again be more traces of ambient-ish melodicity here than on LP5. The seven minutes of the appropriately titled ʽLeft Blankʼ, for instance, is simply all static mixed with PC speaker bleeps, plinks, and plonks that remind me of old arcade games circa 1985 or so. On ʽOutptʼ, they try to tune that static and maybe even make it rock — good idea, because every microprocessor with the tiniest bit of self-respect needs to learn to rock'n'roll sooner or later. On ʽLiccfliiʼ, they seem to be giving the static a lesson in hip-hop, but the way I see it, static waves are just too stubborn to assimilate that much learning over such a brief time period.
The only track that seemed relatively unpredictable to me here was ʽMaphive 6.1ʼ, where both the static and the «microchip percussion» suddenly disappeared, replaced by a mesh of keyboard patterns (some pseudo-electric pianos, some pseudo-organs, some pseudo-harpsichords, some pseudo-chimes, even some pseudo-glass harps and vibraphones, whatever) and «normal» electronic percussion that comes and goes at will. Not only does the whole thing create a mood that is almost critically «non-Autechre», but its overall degree of complexity seems staggeringly high for these guys, who usually prefer minimalistic layering. On the other hand, I am not really sure what exactly it is doing here, locked in a cage of static waves and clicks on all sides.
The most individualistic thing I can say about EP7 is that much of it does a damn good job of dispensing with «tone» as some sort of prerequisite in music. Just turn on your radio and choose whichever configuration of static agrees the most with your biorhythms. Yes, ʽMaphive 6.1ʼ seems to go against that idea, but that's the trick with Autechre — they never hit you in the face with their philosophies. There's always a red herring in the woodpile, if you know what I mean. But then, if not for that track, I would not have hesitated about a thumbs down, probably.