I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: you could imagine that all of the Aphex Twin material – and we’re now talking about a nearly 30-year span of music-making – was created in a single weekend; Richard D. James high on herbal drinks and pills and locked in a basement, sensory-deprived, urgent. Well, it’s always suited the narrative, I like to imagine that whenever I’m listening to his work.
So that makes his latest “comeback” EP – the first in a while, the first really substantial offering since 2014’s out of the blue comeback announcement, Syro – all the more intriguing. For this also sounds as contemporary as an Aphex Twin EP in 2018 could. You realise that this is the guy that invented IDM. He is IDM. His music – as much a pulsing, writhing conceptual-art installation as it ever is any sort of ‘tune’ – is positively electric, eclectic and ever-evolving.
And he’s the Brian Eno of glitch-terror-techno too; in that he really stands up now to be compared only to himself.
So Collapse is an exciting addition to the oeuvre – and if anyone is underwhelmed by it I should think that’s either just a reverse-hype or a need to draw a line in the sand having never been invested in his work. For the Aphex catalogue is a continuum.
Here Aphex is in classic ‘drill’n’bass’ mode, all knotted and coiled, the music unfurling into new impossible to imagine patterns, making sense somehow through tight and weird juxtapositions. Opening track and teaser-single, T69 collapse, is absolutely the tone-setter, we’re back to the Come To Daddy EP – machine-made music seeming so human, bending and leaning into the light, refracting and gleaming and golden.
I think too, most often of Drukqs and though that is his sprawling masterwork – roughly five times the size of Collapse, and so therefore includes everything, the Collapse pieces (five tracks) all feel like they could have slotted into the big sprawling double album released way back in 2001. Yep, I started out by saying this music was as contemporary as could be, then just referred to an album that’s 17 years old – it’s true though, that’s the way Aphex Twin music rolls.
The squelching bounce of 1st 44 is a hypnotic bubble of synth-madness, MT1t29r2 starts off in moody Board of Canada territory but quickly boosts its energy with a power-shot of drum-machine, you can almost imagine a David Bowie croon atop it; spiritual sequel to anything from the Blackstar material…
There’s a jazzy clubby vibe to abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909] as handclap-rap and handbag-house is smooshed together to make something new and weird and vital.
And the closer, pthex, could almost make the dubstep kids dance, whilst never losing the faithful that gathered around the beat-less ambient pieces from 25 years ago.
All in all no mean feat. Featuring some of his finest ideas in a while. The visionary genius of Aphex Twin has a lot of light and life left in it. That’s clear.
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