AUTECHRE: DRAFT 7.30 (2003)
1) Xylin Room; 2) IV VV IV VV VIII; 3) 6IE.CR; 4) TAPR; 5) Surripere; 6) Theme Of Sudden Roundabout; 7) VL AL 5; 8) P.:NTIL; 9) V-PROC; 10) Reniform Puls.
The most revolutionary thing about Autechre's seventh LP is probably the song titles. Where they used to read like ordinary words garbled through electronic malfunctioning, these already look more like random strings extracted from sequences of machine code. And yet, at the same time, lo and behold, one of the titles is a noun phrase in ye good old plain Aenglisc, even though the sonics behind it sound no different from everything else. Ah, say what you will, but this duo simply refuses to be pigeonholed. Predictable stereotypes? Leave them for unimaginative suckers like the Beatles or Frank Zappa.
Other than the letters, though, Draft 7.30 should not come across as a major revelation to those who already know the whole story. It regresses a bit from the standards of Confield — once again, notes, tones, and hums get louder and fussier, drawing attention slightly away from the beats, as if they'd realized themselves that with the percussion paradise of Confield, they let their boldness carry them a bit too far. But in doing that, they are really «going back», losing their grip on the art of radical innovation. Scramble these tracks and the ones from LP5, and the only immediately felt difference is that Draft 7.30, like Confield, is «hoarser» and «hissier», generating a strictly «computer» ambience rather than trying to expand into outer space.
And I am afraid that difference no longer plays into the hands of Booth and Brown. There is only so much whooshing, scraping, dialing, ringing, pinging, and plinging that one can eat up before the inevitable question — «and...?» If Confield could have got you a-thinking about whether or not this could be the music of tomorrow in an alternate, post-Heat Death reality, Draft 7.30 will only get you a-thinking once more about what you have already a-thought before, presumably more than once. Where are the new sensations? Bring on the new sensations already! Why should it take us more than a decade to study this sub-atomic zoo?
In all honesty, this album is neither emotionally seductive nor intellectually provocative: it is simply boring. Yes, the rhythms are still complex and diverse, but you'd think that, with the kind of creative experience these guys have accumulated, they'd be able to come up with a bunch of those in a matter of several hours or so. Worst thing about it, the individual tracks no longer have any individuality — lower your attention a bit, and you won't be able to tell where one stops and the next one begins, except for maybe a jarring change of rhythmics from time to time. They all just sort of roll along, at the same tempos, with the same gloomy attitude. Ever been a fan of standing in front of a large anthill and stubbornly watching them ants run along in all directions? Well, just replace the ants with electrons, and you have yourself your Draft 7.30.
Not that there is anything criminal about that — it was fairly clear that it would be tremendously hard to follow Confield with something equally puzzling or provoking. As usual, long-term fans with appropriately wired brains and a good deal of loyal patience will find plenty of opportunities here. But for those of us who would rather like to nibble on different pebbles of the musical kaleidoscope, Draft 7.30 might be easy to skip. Thumbs down for a lack of imaginativeness, which, I think, is the most offensive accusation one can throw at Autechre (I tried!).
Check "Draft 7.30" (MP3) on Amazon