Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Club/Dance, Experimental Techno
"Everyone knows about everything," Richard D. James told Philip Sherburne in an interview published on Pitchfork last week. "The holy grail for a music fan, I think, is to hear music from another planet, which has not been influenced by us whatsoever." James doesn't come from another planet—his productions take in techno, UK rave, avant-garde classical, jazz, prog rock, pop and plenty else besides.
Almost anything Richard D. James puts his hands and curious mind on—even the relatively straightforward acid house tracks he released under the name Analord through 2005—are little musical puzzles, puzzles that keep changing and adapting as you try to solve them, but also of a sort that if you just leave them be, the fractured picture in front of you is still satisfying. After 10+ listens to Syro, the first Aphex Twin album in nearly 13 years, I’m nowhere near cracking James’ code this time around.
Perhaps more than any other genre, electronic music is compartmentalised, bunched into movements and styles, as if defined by the frontiers it broaches. What the old “IDM” (“Intelligent Dance Music”) tag signified wasn’t “intelligence”, more that those who merited it simply didn’t cohere – Squarepusher and Autechre, yes, but mostly Richard D. James.
With a discography as idiosyncratic as Richard D. James', it's hard to know exactly what to expect from a new album. The latest Aphex Twin offering feels very familiar; every track on Syro has an even measure of something notably Aphex. At no point does the album come close to the dizzying complexity or scorching speed of Drukqs, as James opts instead for an uncharacteristically smooth affair.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In a world where being jarringly different is enough to call yourself a creative, it seems just that the master of dance music re-invention has stuck at his strengths, mastering the art of his own soundscapes. The beauty of Syro is that every second is impeccable. That's not the sound of somebody striving to be heard - it's the sound of an influencer being confident enough to take the edge off.
We’ve binned 13 calendars since the last Aphex Twin album, 2001’s ‘Drukqs’, which raises an obvious question: why now? Forty-three years old and certainly a millionaire several times over, Cornish rave goblin Richard D James has nothing to prove. Over five years in the ’90s, he perfected psychedelic hippy rave (1992’s ‘Digeridoo’), recorded perhaps the best ambient album ever (1994’s ‘Selected Ambient Works Volume II’), then teamed up with director Chris Cunningham to realise your worst drill’n’bass nightmares with 1997’s ‘Come To Daddy’ and its horrifying video. Somewhere along the way, he decided his royalties would be well spent on a post-World War II tank.
It’s 2014 and there is a new Aphex Twin album, which means the most conspicuous musical drought this side of My Bloody Valentine has ended. Syro, unlike the Caustic Window LP released earlier this year, is not a collection of material cut during Richard James’ prolific 1990s heyday and shelved. It’s a new album of new music recorded in the last few years, and it’s said to be the first of more to come.
The general consensus seems to be that Richard D. James might have returned to save us all from the obscene banality of modern EDM. The acid-fuelled Cornish godhead, finally back to restore balance to a broken universe; redeploying the skills that inspired a generation in the Nineties. Blimps in the sky, graffiti on the streets, idiosyncratic press releases and secure listening events across the globe.
As introductions to Aphex Twin albums go, the first track on Syro, “minipops 67 [120.2] (source field mix),” is disconcerting in its directness, especially after 2001's divisive Druqks. Whereas most of that album sounded like a daffy prank on the listener as retribution for ridiculously high expectations, “minipops 67” is warm, inclusive, and surprisingly earnest. With its loping bass, neo-garage drum line, and moody keys, it could pass for a Four Tet remix of a Kid A cut, with nattering robots and Gregorian chants added for good measure.
It’s only when there’s an identifiable addition to Richard D. James’ ever-expanding discography that the features, interviews, and reviews start surfacing again. But more than just providing additional insight into the mind of such an elusive producer, they also remind us just how fucking busy this guy actually is, even when we’re not writing full-on features.
Review Summary: Selected Aphex Works: 02-14Thirteen years buys you a bit of time. Time for reflection, for isolation and refinement; time even to sit back and be satisfied with all that you've accomplished. Is Aphex Twin Richard D. James' true identity? Are all the aliases and monikers subversions of his true self? While Aphex Twin quietly faded away from public consumption AFX rose, and then of course, let's not forget about The Tuss (because I mean, come on right?).
In the 13 years since his last Aphex Twin release, Richard D. James became a dad and moved to the country but never stopped working on music. You don't get the sense that the gap came from insecurity, though; his long-awaited comeback album is as confident and distinctly Aphex Twin as any album in his highly influential career. He has nothing to prove, and that translates into one of his most consistently pleasurable albums.
On the basis of recent comments from the man himself, ‘Syro’ represents the beginning of a new chapter for Richard D. James. Thirteeen years out the game (in terms of full-length releases), he’s promising a batch. Here stands the ringleader, the cause for further impact. It’s easy to see ….
A long 13 years have passed since Richard D. James last gave the world an album-length piece of his mind. Not that the artist currently known as Aphex Twin has been any less productive in the interim, running a record label, taking DJ gigs, and releasing a wealth of remix discs, EPs, and singles, often under pseudonyms he’d only admit to well after the fact.
When Richard D James last unveiled an album under his Aphex Twin moniker, it was in October 2001, with the world reeling from the September 11 terrorist attacks. Drukqs seemed on first listen to be wayward and unwieldy but it has since assumed a status as a major work, its very unpredictability surely a substantial influence on the likes of Zomby and Flying Lotus. The Erik Satie-esque Avril 14th even achieved its own curious ubiquity as soundtrack music.
Although he has released music under other aliases, Richard D James has kept his work as Aphex Twin under wraps for the past 13 years. The expectations on this comeback are so vast, no album could rise above them. But Syro, though not a work of staggering genius or a revelation of electronic music’s future, is a gratifyingly strong record. More hospitable than Drukqs, it is still bracingly strange in places and never complacent (though it contains many familiar Aphex touches).
Richard D. James has been so far ahead of his time for so long that comebacks are clearly no big thing. In June, the EDM godfather OK'd the limited release of a shelved 1994 album that sounded utterly modern. So does Syro, his first new Aphex Twin music since 2001. Thick with Seventies jazz-funk ….
Thirteen years passed between Drukqs and Syro, the fifth and sixth Aphex Twin albums. The long stretch, however, wasn't short on new material from Richard D. James. From 2005 through early 2014, the frequently dazzling Analord EPs (all but one of which was credited to AFX), an EP and LP as the Tuss, and a liberated Caustic Window LP all reached the public.
The last time Aphex Twin released an album, 2001’s double LP Drukqs, the musical world was a very different place. Grime was still just something that gathered underneath your fridge, Apple was yet to release the iPod and several of the current dance scene’s up and coming producers were happy modelling that year’s fashion craze: nappies. If 13 years is a long time in pop, then it’s aeons when your forte is cutting-edge electronic music.
Noise is only that until one begins to understand the language. Better than any supercomputer, the human brain begins filtering through the information in an attempt to find reason amid the deafening chaos. When discovering Richard D. James, it’s like breaking through the womb into a new sonic universe.
opinion byAUSTIN REED Here’s a stat that melts my brain every time I think about it: I Care Because You Do and Richard D. James Album came out in 1995 and 1996, respectively. To label Aphex Twin as one of the most ostensibly progressive musical acts of the mid-90’s would be to assume that more progressive musical acts have come after him and have contributed as much or more to their genre as James did to his.
Both the most visible face in electronic music—it’s leered disconcertingly from the covers of albums and the shoulders of bikini models—and its most enigmatic personality, Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James is an artist made for obsessives. His music’s rise coincided with the flourishing of the Internet, tailored for picking apart on newsgroups and Listservs.
So much has happened to electronic music since Drukqs, Richard James’ last full-length under the Aphex Twin moniker, was released 13 years ago. From the portentous rumblings of the bassy underground to the dizzying, garish territory at the top of the charts, the electronic music landscape is, if not unrecognisable from its state in 2001, certainly far wider, more nuanced and varied than ever before. So, as James returns to the fold with Syro, a question is raised – what impact will the return of modern music’s great pioneers have on the genre (and countless subgenres) over which his previous output casts such a long shadow? Well, where to start? From its outset, Syro feels pretty monumental.
Few artists over the last few decades have as successfully thrived beneath various interfaces as Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin. A composer and beat-music innovator whose way with intricate electronic-synthetic melody spawned entire instrumental subgenres, James has over two-plus decades constructed a veiled mythology around his artistic self involving truths, half-truths and outright lies.
Aphex Twin Syro (Warp) Syro marks the return of Cornwall's sardonic sonic Svengali, ending a hiatus since Y2K's Drukqs. Richard D. James has gobs to answer for in pushing and pulverizing electronic music further than anyone; from defining techno in the early Nineties on Selected Ambient Works Vols. I & II, to refining acid, glitch, IDM, and deforming club music to an impure art.