Release Date: Jan 23, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental Electronic
You had a feeling this was going to happen. After returning last year from more than a decade of light activity, Richard D. James is back with his second Aphex Twin record in four months. If Syro was a masterful summation of the sound James pioneered on his classic 1990s releases, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 is a reminder that there was always a lot of low-profile experimentation going on alongside the canonical LPs.
I am fully prepared to accept that my disappointment at the release of Syro last year places me in opposition to the popular consensus. Whilst Richard D James returning to Aphex Twin just a year after Tomorrow’s Harvest had dropped out of the ether was scarcely believable, it was not, to my mind at least, quite as much of a cause for celebration as that record’s sudden appearance. Given that Drukqs has always seemed to me like the logical conclusion of the Aphex Twin project, fulfilling a role that The Campfire Headphase never did for Boards of Canada, I find it hard to see Syro as much more than an unnecessary addendum, let alone a vital and significant extension of the Aphex Twin legacy.
After 13 years without new Aphex Twin material, Richard D James reassumed his most famous pseudonym last September with the release of Syro¸ a heady, effortless-sounding haze of a record that ushered James back to his rightful place at the very top of the electronic music pile as if no time had passed at all. Such was the impact of Syro that the release of another new set of material (amid the confusion surrounding the surfacing and disappearing of yet more new work on Soundcloud), Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2, after a mere four months feels a little disorientating. Lucky, then, that this collection is engaging and accessible enough to sate any inertia listeners may feel and settle them into step with its distinctive rhythm.
It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It would have made a fine alternate title for Syro, Richard D. James's mind-melting, hyper-distinctive return as Aphex Twin from last year. Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, another Omar-S album title, works well for James's latest, the Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP. Few artists could claim creative carte blanche on the level James can, especially after an album that showed he's still in his prime long after his first run of classics.
Richard D. James, EDM's deadbeat dad, returned after 13 years of silence last year with the masterful Syro. This surprise EP — along with hours of other music that he appears to be posting to Soundcloud lately — suggests that there's plenty more left on his fabled hard drive. (Maybe there's even a Pt1 somewhere.) Among 13 tracks that plunk down somewhere between John Cage's prepared piano compositions and a Martian breakbeats record, the adroit android thump of "diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13" and the contemplative "DISKPREPT1" show the maestro finely mincing live drums and instruments into a sweet treat.
We were warned. Before Richard D. James resurfaced as Aphex Twin in 2014 with his delightfully colorful album Syro, he revealed in interviews that he had at least a dozen albums worth of material on deck and waiting. In that light, the sudden appearance of Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt.
A post-Syro release from Aphex Twin relinquishes our anxiety of the thought of him retreating from publishing music again. Now we can relax. And here it is: an EP that picks up not where Syro left off, but where certain acoustic tracks on Drukqs left off. Listen to the prepared piano of that album’s opener, “Jynweythek Ylow,” to get a quick tease.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Total war. Richard D James has been fighting it for most of his adult life, in clubs, home-built studios and the dark web. He has bulldozed a unique path for himself in the glossy paper house of the music world, coming and going as he sees fit, so ambiguous a figure as to barely seem like a real human at all.
It's only been four months since the release of Syro, but Richard D. James returns yet again with another Warp release. This time, however, there will be no moving of bodies, only stroking of chins. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2 seems like it was birthed in the wee hours — the compositional scribblings of a sleepless man.
Among plentiful praise, one of the main criticisms hurled at Aphex Twin’s ‘Syro’ when it arrived last year was that it sounded a bit straightforward, a bit safe. As if Richard D James – lest we forget, a man who once DJed using not vinyl, but a sheet of sandpaper – had, in his dotage, decided to give the people what they want. Well, rest assured, ‘Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt 2’ is not playing to the gallery.
In 2014, Aphex Twin returned after 13 years with Syro, a collection of acid tracks whose pH had been increased with the bicarbonate of middle age. Now with this new EP, just four months later, he’s emptying out more of the archive he has amassed over the long gap between releases, and it’s even less vital. Syro had plenty of fans – Guardian critics collectively voted it the fourth best LP of 2014 – but I wasn’t really one of them.
A 13-track, 27-minute EP, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments, Pt. 2 trailed Syro by only four months. As revealed by its descriptive title, it's rather different, with drums and keys figuring prominently in a series of pieces that approximate stiff warm-ups and jam sessions from a synthesized combo gunning for a Kranky contract or the opening slot on a Squarepusher x Z-Machines tour.
One of the most shocking things about Richard D. James's unexpected resurrection of his Aphex Twin moniker last September after a 13-year absence was how accessible his Syro album turned out to be. (It just won a Grammy.) It was one of the more perverse paths a musician so notoriously experimental could choose for a comeback. So when four months later he released the challenging and alien Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt.
Electronic producers don’t tend to have a “mature” period. If they do, it’s a fleeting moment in their mid-20s, before times change and the aesthetic rug is whipped out from under them. Fine artists, filmmakers, novelists: most people who make art are expected to develop their craft over the course of a lifetime. But in pop music – and particularly its upstart younger sibling, dance music — you’re a has-been by the age of 35.