Album Of The Month – September
Aphex Twin – Syro
2014 – Warp Records
I’ve played plenty of other music this month but it’s only ever been leading up to this one record so I’ve decided not to write about anything else today. Monday September 22nd (or a little earlier for some of us lucky souls) was the date when we could finally hear whether the thirteen year time period between 2001’s much misunderstood Drukqs and the new one Syro was really worth the wait. It’s not that Richard D. James has been silent in the interim though is it? A stunning series of AFX twelves and all that fuss about The Tuss kept us talking and speculating about new Aphex gear. We did all the advertisement ourselves… well, apart from the blimp and the NYC street logos of course.
So, what does it sound like I hear you cry? I suspect most people taking the effort to read this far will already have their opinions on the album, the rather odd packaging and the usual interview fodder concerning James’ wish to release “a ton” more LPs and EPs over the next few years. Album release situations like this are usually the result of two possible reasons;
a) Past it band/producer releases lacklustre new material after Impossibly long timespan to try and generate more interest in forthcoming tour/merch and dwindling back catalogue sales.
b) Past it band/producer releases lacklustre new material after Impossibly long timespan when he/she realises how fucking expensive children, mortgages and life in the real world is.
I don’t think James is past it nor do I think Syro is lacklustre in any department although I will say that he’s clearly got the head of a fortysomething on his shoulders these days, sometimes at least. And two kids. Just a thought to leave hanging in the air rather than discuss any further…
We all heard Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix) a few weeks ago courtesy of the previews and it was damn good to hear that the Aphex was still making music worthy of more than a casual listen – a big relief to many. It’s a great track that sounds like it was made by no one other than Richard James, what else do you want? A complete and utter genre redefinition? Me, I love the multi-tracked, pitched up vocals running through it. Elsewhere, 4 bit 9d api+e+6 has traces of the Analord ethos behind it and 180db sounds like a cross between a rave gone wrong and coming down off a bad E – fucking scary but with big rushes all the same.
Then there’s CIRCLONTA6A (Syrobonkus Mix) which throws all the analogue gear into a big audio sink and sees what happens, luckily the burbling acid lines, speedy beats and pitch bent synths are sublime old school Aphex here – not looking back at history though, racing on into the future like a maniac laughing at everything as usual. Syro u473t8+e (Piezoluminescence Mix) throws lush synths and acid stabs into an audio washing machine and puts the whole lot on a fast spin.
A few more LP tracks before I wind up – S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix) snips up rough arsed jungliest drum loops and pitches them against a babbling acidic background with more of those lush synths to massage your throbbing temples. Closing track is Aisatsana – a single piano, miked so closely so you can hear fingers depressing the keys and accompanied by birdsong from outside. Utterely so out of place in the context of the LP but far too beautiful not to be there. James should just record a full album of material like this and show us how much he really fucking hates the haters.
My final thoughts on this album are extremely complicated and varied but then nothing Aphex Twin related ever was simple at the beginning – for me at any rate. It sounds absolutely stunningly produced for a start, the drums in particular are as crisp and clear as anything I’ve heard on any Aphex release. At first I thought there’d be plenty of trademark sonic larks and in-jokes littering the album, there usually are but try as I might I can’t find any. I expected a straight cross breeding between Windowlicker and the Analord series which is there in minute DNA traces but the past seems to have evaporated once more for Richard D. James. It’s like he’s had to wait those thirteen years for a release until we were ready for this LP. Drukqs was a case in point. There were many people who slated it when it was released but have subsequently lived with it for many years, it’s become a part of their lives and they’ve grown to love it. They finally caught up with it at last.
There’s lots more I could say to air my joyful confusion and excitement about this record but it would probably bore you to tears – hell, you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway. My final words are these – The Aphex Twin has disappeared into the future once more – for how long, who knows but right now this is his legacy to us all. Play it long and loud my friends, I know I will.
LP of the month without another single note being played by anyone else.