Manchester, England,'s Sean Booth and Rob Brown (a.k.a. Autechre) create music that often veers dangerously close to difficult listening. But on the group's fantastic new CD, Draft 7.30, the project seems to have come in from the cold, offering a remarkably warm fusion of the human and the machine. As with all of Autechre's output, the sounds defy easy description, since the duo's compositions function neither like songs nor like traditional dance tracks. The steely pings and plangent synthesizer tones may be familiar to electronica listeners, but the way Booth and Brown apply the material is unique. Accelerating clicks stutter with the cadence of dropped ping-pong balls; demure keyboard tones flash up and then retract like ferns in time-lapse photography. Everything feels hesitant, as though the sounds were deciding whether it's safe to emerge from hiding.
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Unlike almost everything passing itself off as experimental music today, Draft 7.30 isn't just a collection of outlandish sounds or bumpin' tracks. It's an exhilarating essay on the beauty of form, balancing chaos with control and weighing moments of rupture with the rapture of sonic immersion.