Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
By God, it's looking like Aphex Twin has gone full Energizer Bunny on us—which, given his interest in robots that bang drums, actually makes perfect sense. This time last year, Richard D. James was seven years into an extended hiatus (or nine, or 13, depending upon the alias) when Warp launched a hot-air balloon emblazoned with his logo into the skies over London.
AFX is probably the second most well known of Richard D. James' numerous monikers, and arguably one of his best. It was responsible for the superb Analogue Bubblebath series from the early '90s and the equally superb — albeit decidedly more haunting — 42-track Analord collection from 2005. Orphaned Deejay Selek (2006-2008) is the first we've seen of the AFX pseudonym since then, and if the title is anything to go by, we can assume this newest EP is a selection of unreleased tracks recorded between '06 and '08.
A year after he released Syro, the first Aphex Twin album in 13 years, Richard D. James let loose his first official AFX material in ten years. This eight-track, 30-minute jolt, titled Orphaned Deejay Selek 2006-2008 but designed to look like something from 1989 or 1990, also followed a spillage of over 100 previously unreleased (and occasionally brilliant) tracks on Soundcloud.
Whether as Aphex or AFX, the appeal of listening to Richard D James’s work is the same. Like well-honed satire, his music’s always been a needed voice in the conversation, offering a fresh perspective to the most well-tread topics. The perspectives shown on Syro, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt. 2, and now on orphaned deejay selek 2006-2008 exemplify an artistic personality that is always considering new ways to express and affect, each aberrant stroke proffering new theories worth future study.
The brain of Richard D James is a bottomless pit. The boundless brilliance of Syro should have been evidence enough, but then the man put out the blinding Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP, deposited hundreds of tracks on to that soundcloud page, and to boot fired out the Syro postscript single, 'MARCHROMT30A edit 2b 96'. Syro felt like an explosion of pent up music from a decade in the wilderness recovering from the critical panning Drukqs got back in 2001, but Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 - which somehow received more than a few terrible reviews itself - felt like something more, perhaps like a precursor to the Aphex Twin opus, blending the man’s compositional brilliance and unique melodic mind with the limitless possibilities of computer-controlled music.
Consider how much AFX has changed over the years. Richard D James's first official release (and still his best, some would argue), "Analogue Bubblebath" was a shimmery glimpse of the ambient-techno that would come to define Aphex Twin's early classics. Jump ahead to 1995's "Arched Maid Via RDJ" and he's already working in elements of Richard D. James Album's spastic rhythms.
If Richard James demonstrates any aptitude for subtlety at all, it has eluded me completely. One minute, he’s flying a curiously branded hot air balloon over London with no explanation; the next, he’s releasing albums called Selected Ambient Works and Digeridoo, titles so bland and explicit, they belong in a library basement. Fan or not—because God knows you’re either one or the other—you have to admit that this is an exhaustive approach.