Autechre: Draft 7.30

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Autechre

Album: Draft 7.30
Label: Warp

A singular act that practically wrote the manual for abstract techno, Autechre has stuttered and scraped through a hard-won evolution that has grown as vexing as it is valiant. The English duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown commanded a sort of monastic solemnity from the start, but with 2001's arrhythmic ramrod Confield, they effectively betrayed that solemnity with an experiment too wrapped up in its own process to hint at a hypothesis worth testing in the first place. What happens when beat-based music defies all rhythmic expectations? Why should music not warrant the kind of vacuumed seriousness granted to sculpture? When does aesthetic isolation move toward antisocial contempt? Thankfully, those lingering questions are more worth addressing through Draft 7.30, an album that applies Confield's ideas to less embarrassingly stunted ends. Applying traditional musical values to Draft proves no easier than it ever has with Autechre, but the corroded beat bits and shiver-sweeps feel more designed than decimated this time out. "Xylin Room" opens with fidgety pecks that stretch into the patient strokes that pace Draft's better moments. Tracks like "6IE.CR" and "Theme Of Sudden Roundabout" lace caustic hip-hop moods with the meticulous sound design that made Autechre's name, breaking into ruins that elicit visions altogether lost on recent missteps. Evidenced by the intricate computer art on Draft's cover (and the stunning animation included on the 2002 EP Gantz Graf), Autechre music works like a visual medium as much as an auditory one. But Draft shows how no sense is best served in isolation, particularly on the 11-minute highlight "Surripere," which bends a curiously straightforward rhythm pattern through contortions that never lose sight of their initial shape. That lack of blinders gives Draft its redeeming sense of purpose, however cryptic or richly undefined that purpose proves.