It’s been easy to rush in and declare nearly any and all of the product/activity from Aphex Twin since his return “The Best”. Quality control was there, always. It was usually great stuff – but since a mini glut of releases, many of them no doubt stored up over the decade-long absence, the temptation is to swiftly write up each new one as a new gold standard. I know I’ve been (nearly) doing that. It’s mostly a way of reminding ourselves of his viability, reliability and magic. It’s a way of saying we missed him.
But Cheetah EP as with Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt.2 is a bit more to hang on to – more than the great but slight EP/Single, MARCHROMT30a Edit 2b 96 (it’s also a bit more and more accessible because of its title I guess).
Not so long as to bore and drag on, but not just a tossed off duo or trio of tunes. Here, as with Aphex’s best shorter albums and longer EPs we get to get inside and hear the things he does so well around the glitch and grind aspects. So here the focus is more on tunnelling to the heart of the tune – to, yes – actual tunes! To melody. And particularly to groove. There’s a lovely twist on funk that’s always been one of the most intoxicating aspects of what Richard D. James tweaks and controls. And here we hark back to those late-night reveries on the early, ambient recordings. But with a bit more dance-floor spunk. A bit more kick. (In all senses of the term).
These are slower tempos, which helps to accentuate that groove aspect/focus. This isn’t the labcoat-wearing mad scientist gimmick, this is about building a logical flow. In particular the back half of this thing really hums along nicely – Cirklon3 [mix] and 2X202-ST5 being the highlights (may he never lose his knack for a catchy title huh?)
Cheetah is no game-changer, no need for Aphex Twin to be doing that (again – and again) but it’s just consistent, easy, accessible without at all seeming like any edge has been lost. Yes the corners have been rounded, smoothed off just a tad, but it’s a fun ride once again. From one of modern music’s true visionaries. If you’ve ever wanted to take the plunge but trepidations have remained, or if you have always been uncomfortable recommending an Aphex Twin set of recordings for the neophyte in your life Cheetah is the one. How funny – and very Aphex Twin – that his latest be both a fine introduction and something for completists to salivate over.