Aphex Twin, AFX, Richard David James, the electronic godfather is back. Just in case you don’t know who that is he is the man who influenced a generation of electronic artists emerging today; the man who influenced a host of rock bands to dive into the electronic realm; the man who influenced artists who are now known as royalty in the music world, from Radiohead to Daft Punk. He was in his peak during the late 80s and throughout the 90s for putting out the most bizarre form of electronic music imaginable that he likes to call ‘Braindance’ but would by some elitist music fans be called (quite irritatingly and pretentiously) IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). His last album under the Aphex Twin alias, ‘Drukqs’ was released 13 years ago and now he has returned to the scene to put out the album ‘Syro’.
Before I start I have to say, there is nothing as groundbreaking as you would expect from Aphex. There is none of the creepiness from ‘Come To Daddy‘ or any blatant attempts at weird pop hits like ‘Windowlicker‘. That doesn’t stop this album from being utterly compelling though, production wise it’s honestly hard to fault this album. This album was reportedly made using 138 pieces of equipment, and the names of the songs on here are named after bits of equipment used on the songs. James would also change around his studio equipment every five minutes while making this LP. As a result of this no two songs sound the same on this LP, yet the LP flows so elegantly. There is a distinct lack of the enigma that is Richard David James on this LP but it feels like there’s more attention on the music itself.
The album opens with the song ‘Minipop67 [120.2] (Source Mix)’ a song that has so much groove in the opening moments it’s hard to not hear that it’s him. As so many of the songs do on this new LP if you were to play the beginning of the song and the end they would sound completely different, but these changes throughout the song are done without any interference on the track that you don’t even notice the change. Aphex Twin as a producer has the ability to show the rockist people that think that real music can only be produced via guitars that electronic music isn’t just ‘hitting buttons’. Every single sound on this record sounds like it has been sweated over for ages. There isn’t a single wasted moment on this album, there are no two bars that sound the same.
Though obviously these songs are jarring because of the fact that there is so much going on, these are some are of the most catchy songs Aphex Twin has ever put out. ‘CIRCLONT67 [141.98] (syrobonkus mix)’ is the best song on the album, there are so many different sounds all interlinking with each other into this brilliant bit of brain dance, it’s hard to know which bit for your ears to follow. Other than the incredible range of synths and sounds on this album, the percussion is also incredible. Who knew how many possible different percussion sounds could be thrown into one song, on every song.
If anything the biggest shock on this album is the closer ‘aisatsana ’ which is an ode to his wife (it’s Anastasia spelt backwards). It’s a daunting, slow and beautiful piano piece. A moment of reflection after an album filled with some of the best brain dance he’s ever made. That’s when you realise what Aphex Twin has done. Through giving in to his more accessible side on this album he has still done the unexpected. Given us an album that we’d wanted from Aphex Twin all along, we just didn’t know we wanted it.