Release Date: Sep 14, 2018
Record label: Warp
Just four years into Aphex Twin's post-comeback career, Richard D. James is making some of the best music of his life. Maybe that sounds like hyperbole or provocation. He's got a formidable track record, after all: Between 1991 and 2001, he turned electronic music on its ear more than once, giving the world a number of classics in the process.
What is there left to say about Richard D James, more famously known as Aphex Twin? Frankly, it's a gift that we're still getting new music from the man, myth and legend at all, given the decade-long hiatus he took from releasing new music not so long ago. But where his comeback full-length Syro was an unmitigated success, his last EP Cheetah received a mixed reception, showing that even those as talented as James don't and shouldn't always get an easy ride based on their past importance. Collapse, announced a couple months ago via a series of posters that appeared overnight in London, Turin, LA, NYC and Tokyo, however, sees a back to basics approach - as much as that term can ever apply to James - where he has returned to the masterful atmospheric electro we are all used to him producing.
Poor Richard D. James. He has simply set the bar too high to be given a fair shout these days. We've just come to expect so much from the British producer that even a remarkable EP, such as his latest Collapse, is likely to be met with some glassy-eyed indifference. That's not warranted though, and here's why: While there isn't necessarily anything "new" on here for Aphex Twin fans, this is still light years ahead of almost every other producer on the planet. He basically destroyed the mould some 30 years ago, so the fact that he can still ….
Following a hiatus of thirteen years Aphex Twin returned in 2014 with his 7th studio album, Syro. Though engaging, the album operated more as a series of isolated tracks, lacking the raw appeal of a gut-punching single like "Windowlicker" or the strategic direction of an album like Selected Ambient Works 85-92. This was followed by the somewhat unremarkable Cheetah EP in 2016, which broke little new ground for James.
In some ways, Collapse sounds like the most Aphexian recording Aphex Twin has released since bursting back onto the scene with 2014's Syro. Since then, he's ventured down several different rabbit holes via EPs and limited releases, from the clinical experiments of Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments, Pt. 2 to the manic acid techno of Orphaned Deejay Selek: 2006-2008, not to mention the smorgasbord of glitches, rushes, and interstellar howls spread across a 90-minute cassette only available at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2017.
This five-track EP is another excellent, deconstructionist addition to a musical canon like no other Despite his semi-reclusive life and bafflingly obtuse music, Aphex Twin is something of an otherworldly superstar. Case in point - the internet hysteria when the 'Collapse' EP was teased with a series of stunning posters around the globe. Met with the kind of fervent adoration usually reserved for pop behemoths, the Cornish enigma has clearly lost none of his appeal since returning from a 13-year hiatus with a patchy trio of official releases and a series of Soundcloud dumps (which ranged from leftover beats and noises to ideas that could realistically be considered full Aphex songs).
Though just about every contemporary electronic artist has either taken cues from or been indirectly inspired by Aphex Twin, there's still an intangible difference between a genuine Richard D. James creation and one that seeks to replicate the experience. Whether he's making intoxicating IDM or equally intoxicating (albeit in different ways), drill 'n' bass, James commands your attention.
By virtue of their ceaseless fervor and intuitive sleuthing, Aphex Twin constituents have willed Richard D. James into the enigmatic lodestar of electronic music that he’s known as today. So on Collapse, his latest EP under the Aphex name, there’s a certain antipathy and cynicism present, a kind of misanthropy that could be found in a hermit who revels in mystery and only offers fleeting, furtive indications of his existence.