|If anyone gives a shit ....
||[May. 30th, 2003|10:09 am]
My review of Autechre's Draft 7.30 -- just published in the local free paper Little Village:|
Autechre "Draft 7.30" WarpCD111
Autechre has always stood out among electronic music artists for the
paradoxic relationship they have with their fans. They rarely tour,
submit sparingly to interviews, and have never included a picture of
themselves in their album art.
They release records that despite their
relentless abstraction are wound on an armature of warm, emotional
harmony. But they also release works that seem to lack all human
connection, leaving the listener an isolated bystander to an opaque
industrial process. Every new release sparks intense debate on the
internet as to whether they've finally lost it, or topped previous
If pop music has an opposite, this is it. Autechre's music calls even
the idea of music in question -- melody, harmony, and steady rhythms
go missing within a fractally detailed system of rhythm, noise, and
random pitches. Yet an appreciative audience seems willing to buy
whatever they produce. They'll never get a gold record, but their
sales dwarf those of all but a few other electronic artists.
The last two Autechre records "Confield" and "Ganz Graff" seemed to
teeter right on the precipice of the completely arbitrary. Whatever it
was Booth and Hall were saying with those records, they were extremely
uneasy listening, even for fans. "Draft 7.30" pulls back from raw
sound design and gives you a few shreds of steady beat and melody to
My favorite track is "Surripere" which combines a beat that distantly
echoes Moroccan Gnawa drumming, along with synthetic brass chords that
sound like refugees from a Mahler symphony. While a definite groove
forms, subtle variations weave in and out. About 4 minutes in the
beat mutates into jagged noise bursts. Other sounds dip in and out,
and the beat falls apart into polyrhythmic shards. It's traveling from
the country into a large chaotic city.
"Theme Of a Sudden Roundabout" follows the opposite path, starting
with spilling-the-silverware-drawer-down-the-stairs percussion that
gradually approaches something resembling a steady rhythm. Meanwhile
what sounds like air bubbling up through mud dances around the
beat. Little bits of vague sound drift in the background. "VL AL"
follows with an ill hip-hop-esque beat made iller by snatches of piano
and strings drifting in and out.
The album as a whole seems more willing to give you a way in than some
earlier Autechre, but for all that it's no less challenging. They seem
simultaneously to honor the headnodding beats while at the same time
subverting them with skittering drumrolls and momentary drops into
16th note triplets. On repeated listening the tracks reveal a
melancholy beauty accreted in layers of squabbling, unruly percussion
and subtle touches of almost-melody.
"Draft 7.30" seems like a return from the landmark-free wilderness of
"Confield" to at least the outskirts of recognizable music. The
richness of detail is overwhelming but ultimately quite satisfying in
ways that are hard to describe. Autechre attempts, and I think
succeeds, to meet the listener halfway, even if their ultimate agenda
is to drag them onto unfamiliar ground. The pleasure is in the
tussle, and the examination it forces you to make into what the act of
listening to music means.