Beat and Variation

EP7, which encompasses a two-part British release and is actually full-album length, is the first Autechre I've obsessed over. Compared to the more commonly beloved Amber and Tri Repetae Ae (revisited of late on a smooth, satisfying Peel Sessions EP taped back in 1995), it's much less tempted by pastoral or sci-fi hyperbole. And it's not etherealized-via-computer like its immediate predecessors. As with many artists who've been around a while— though neither has hit 30— the two are taking a moment to get back to basics. Here, that means giving all the electronic sounds they've worked with textures as tactile as possible, then pushing them around with a rough touch. The heart of the album is the resultant scrape. If that seems unappealing, I'll summon one last analogy: a mature painter who accomplishes with a thick, emotive daub what earlier might have required a showy technique. Violating the cardinal dictate of pop, which always moves forward, Autechre have mastered their form.

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