"It seems that for a lot of people, if they hear something that doesn't sound regular, they assume it's random. If live musicians were playing it, they'd probably call it jazz or something."
Autechre have received exorbitant amounts of praise and criticism, in equal measure, for their use of generative software in music composition. Detractors of Autechre's unique brand of experimental techno often claim it sounds "random," which Sean Booth addresses in the above quote; however, many critics fail to realize the relatively small role generative sequencing plays in Autechre's composition. Only two records out of their extensive discography are primarily generative: their 2001 opus Confield (the title referencing Conway's Game of Life, a generative system in its own regard) and the preceding album masquerading as an EP, EP7. "Most of Confield came out of experiments with Max that weren't really applicable in a club environment." EP7, then, presents itself as the earliest experimentation Autechre did in the medium. In what is altogether incredibly rare for a group that tends to operate in total secrecy, the Max/MSP patch for track 7, Liccflii, was leaked and Autechre's methods are laid bare. I won't claim to understand any of the programming, but it's important to keep in mind that "random" isn't in Sean Booth or Rob Brown's vocabulary. The generative sequences are entirely under their control and are painstakingly tweaked to perfection.
EP7 was originally intended to be two separate EPs, and this is how a record that rivals the length of Autechre's shortest LPs earned the EP designation. While there is a cohesive sonic thread running through all the tracks present, the divide between EP7.1 and EP7.2 is certainly noticeable. The first five tracks make up the first half, and the remaining six compose the back end. If there is a flaw with EP7, it's that 7.2 is considerably stronger than 7.1. Autechre's quality control is ever present, and none of these songs are in any way weak; and in true Autechre fashion, every song is vastly different from the other songs it's packaged with, but somehow all the clashing personalities fit together, like some kind of eight-dimensional aural jigsaw.
The usual adjectives for reviewing Autechre's music still apply - cold, calculated, sterile, and mathematical - but EP7 shows the group at their most robotic and inorganic. Songs like "Ccec," which features an impossibly precisely chopped up rap sample, dip heavily into the uncanny valley. It's so close to human that the natural reaction is repulsion at the slight differences. "Dropp" presents itself as a simple melancholic synth line, but when the drums enter they bring along an otherworldy swooshing effect that completely defies explanation. Indeed, much of Autechre's prowess lies in subverting initial impressions - "Maphive 6.1" ends up nowhere near its starting point, progressing through gamelan-style bells to a more typical (for Autechre, anyways) array of skittering kicks and snares. Possibly the most organic of the tracks here is "Zeiss Contarex," named after a camera, which somehow gradually pulls a dramatic melody out of an infinitely descending Shepard tone.
EP7 is likely the Autechre release most concerned with DSP, or digital signal processing, and computer tricks. Previous work focused more on organic track development, while later work focused more on inventive sequencing. Many of the tracks here begin or end with what many would call "digital noise wankery;" but rest assured none of the DSP experimentation gets in the way of the music. Often the difficult-to-describe computer weirdness forms the backbone of the track, like in the aforementioned "Dropp," or in "Outpt," which is based entirely around a distinctive digital bubbling.
On the surface there's not much to relate these tracks to one another, no sense of storytelling as rockists would demand an album to possess - but Autechre has always avoided this. Nearly all their full-lengths operate as collections of tracks rather than conceptual or dramatic suites (LP5 and Amber being the most notable exceptions). It is entirely due to the merit of the individual pieces that Autechre is worthy of acclaim. Their secretive nature also feeds into this musical meritocracy: there are no meta-narratives that feed into the minds of critics and reviewers, causing them to focus on the artist rather than the art. Autechre's EP7 occupies its own plane, one immediately terrifying and confusing, but EP7's unique brand of perplexity is not one to skip.