aphex.twin

A First Listen: Brand. New. Aphex Twin. Syro.

With just over a months official warning, we all of a sudden have a new Aphex Twin album.  It’s been TWELVE YEARS and some change since his last album Drukqs.  (Yes, I know technically speaking he released music under the AFX, Analord, and The Tuss monikers, but we’re not talking about that right now.)  You know where I was twelve years ago?  Drinking my face off in college.  The iPod hadn’t been released yet.  Dubstep hadn’t been invented yet.  EDM (I shudder every time I hear that term) wasn’t a genre of electronic music.  Hell, Skrillex was still screaming his face off in From First To Last.  Suffice to say the world has changed quite a bit, even further more, the world of music has changed drastically.

Apparently Richard D. James is still Richard D. James – but he’s grown up.  He’s apparently moved to rural Scotland (hey they’re voting for Independence today actually), got married, has a few kids, and takes the random small or gigantic Dj gig from times to time.  We heard the beginning of a rumor in 2009 about the possibilities of a new album.  Then an interview surfaced with Richard himself in 2010 about his ‘six unreleased albums he’s sitting on’.  Flash forward four more years and out of no where there’s a slimy green blimp with the Aphex logo on it flying over an Elephant & Castle in England and Aphex logos spray-painted in front of NYC’s Radio City Music Hall.  Something is happening.

Then BOOM – the next day, Aphex’s Twitter account (which has been active for years) posts it’s 9th Tweet ever: a random scrambled URL that is only accessible via the deep web.  If you’re a smart enough cookie to figure that out, you then got launched to a Website with track titles, an album name, and a whole slew of other seemingly useless information.  Later that day Warp Records confirmed – a new Aphex Twin album release is just over a month away.

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This is a very different style review than I usually do.  It’s a ‘First Listen’ meaning I’ve just scribbled some notes down for each song as I heard it for the first time last night.  This is not the well written heady review you’re looking for.  Straight first impressions here:

Minipops 67 – The actual ‘single’ from the album.  A tame Aphex style breakbeat with warm glow from his many synths starts this ride out.  Heavily vocoded with many voices, almost R&Bish to an extent.  So good to hear his sounds again!!
XMAS_EVET10 (Thanaton3 Mix) – Stranger, murkier, slower, video garish at points, and thick with deep acid lines weaving in and out and on top of each other.  You don’t realize it’s been ten and a half minutes when it ends.  Hauntingly beautiful.
Produk 29 – Starts fairly gangster as far as Richard goes beat wise, sinks right into Aphex synth with subtle acid lines.  Jazzy to a point.  Then it gets swampy.  Very accessible while being completely full and layered.  Fucking whore!!
4 bit 9d api+e+6 – If I was to choose a ‘single’ off the album, this would be it – it’s Windowlickery to an extent.  Really.  Just massively toned down and not necessarily trying to tickle your brain in ways some might not appreciate.
180db_ – Out of no where a four in the floor groove.  Synth heavy and breakish at points.  Flat.  Doesn’t really seem like a completely finished thought, and doesn’t really fit the rest of the album so far.
CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix) – Now we’re back in some far off land that’s close to Drukqs, but much more mature.  Drenched in all sorts of sounds flying at you…never what I’d call overwhelming like points on Drukqs, but still testing limits.  Complex.  Incredible piece of electronica.
Fz pseudotimestretch+e+3 – LoL.  If you ever owned an older organ you’ll totally appreciate the one.  Great segue.
CIRCLONT14 (Shrymoming Mix) – Back to that land near Drukqs.  More modern Aphex mastery.  It’s acid drenched, half timing, and super bouncy.  Yes please!
Syro u473t8+3 (Piezoluminescence Mix) – Possible ‘title track’?  If so I can see why.  Fairly forward acid backbone, dark and grimey throughout.  Drum heavy older Aphex sounding.  A well mastered construction of so many things Richard does so well.
PAPAT4 (Pineal Mix) – Lovers of the Amen Break will bask in the beauty of this one.  Light and fluffy, like laying on pillows, but driven in mellow drum&bass.
S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix) – Jungle!!  He brought out the jungle!  Hints of grime on top, not so acidy as a lot of the album until the finish – absolutely love the second half of this track!
Aisatsana – A beautiful birdsong piano played nightcap to a lovely dream inside Richard’s head.  Gorgeousness at it’s finest.

Well, I’m completely sold.  Over all there isn’t as much going on as far as throwing new sounds at you consistently while changing beat patterns every 8 bars like some of his previous works.  This album is not set out to change the face of music like Richard has done countless times before – this album is about Richard doing what Richard does best – being Richard.  Nothing still sounds like Aphex, but Aphex.

Do not think to hardly when listening to this album.  It’s like when Boards of Canada released their first album after eight years last year…way too many people getting caught up in the hype expecting something so over the top, when in fact BoC did what they do best – being BoC.  Don’t go into Syro expecting anything and you’ll come out on top with a shit eating Aphexy grin as much as before.

Thank you Richard for coming back!

SYRO

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Music for the Ear…as of late. The Second.

June 29th, 2012

Music, music, music, Life, music, music, MUSIC!  It doesn’t stop.  Overload the ears, but be nice to them with a safe listening volume.  Brain swell.  Incredible.  Little mix of old and new on the ear drum As Of Late:

: Meshuggah :
: Catch Thirtythree : Nuclear Blast : 2005
:
~ metal, progressive.rock, doom 

Pure, unfiltered, and in your face.  Sweden’s Meshuggah step up their game quite a bit here with the experimental 47 minute opus “Catch Thirtythree“.  The band’s 5th album, and only piece of this nature to this date, has always been quite the difficult listen – but can be extremely rewarding beneath the heavy and more often than not darker undertones of the piece.  Stepping into a more texturous flow inside themselves, layers and layers of guitars come whirling out at you, with electronically sequenced samples of the drummer (in place of the drummer physically playing the kit) for the first time in the band’s career.  Jazz elements present themselves at times.  The album is lyrically said to float through specific paradoxes, hence the title “Catch Thirtythree (as in the phrase ‘catch twenty-two‘).  Complete with an intermission or sorts during ‘In Death – Is Death’, this is the one space on the album where everything isn’t driving at full speed metal ahead.  After death or course is an awakening, and you’ll definitely find one if you’re able to push through this opus.

: BT :
: If The Stars Are Eternal So Are You And I : Laptop Symphony : 2012 :
~ ambient, glitch, experimental, modern.classical ~

BT.  The man has simply been all over the place with his music, and all over the world because of it.  I used to see him back at NAF Studios, full on rave status Dj, blowing up trance like there would never be an end to that style of synth line (is there yet??).  He’s made dance music, soundtracked, and he’s also put out some extremely beautiful experimental works.  2006 brought the first of these more experimental works, “This Binary Universe“.  I’d never listened to BT‘s music on the regular until that point, but that album, along with the incredible video work from LA’s Scott Pagano, one of my favorite visual artist’s, had me as a quick convert.  “ITSAESAYAI” is said to be the follow up to the beginning of a new direction for BT.  ITSAESAYAI” provides you once again with beauty from all ends of the spectrum.  With seven tracks ranging from the 7 – 14 minute range, the journey  had me sucked in the entire time the first listen (which proceeded to be three full listens the day I got it – something that very rarely happens around here).  The disc is mainly comprised of gorgeous waves of ambient pads fluttering with organic instrumentation, glitch of the most precise nature, and every once in a while, bassy beat driven sections spanning from dubstep, to chilled out techno, to glitched out breaks.  I can definitely see this being on my ‘Top 10 of the Year’ already.  Even though I believe the whole album is incredible, ‘Our Dark Garden’ has been standing out quite a bit – one of the more vocal driven tracks on the album, it brings you to a place of pure bliss if you let it, gliding through a land of harmony…with loads of fluffy clouds to lay on.  A masterpiece of an album…highly recommend checking this one out.

: Broken Social Scene :
: You Forgot It In People : Arts & Crafts International : 2002 :
~ indie.rock, experimental.punk, art.rock, ambient, post.rock ~

Broken Social Scene’s second album witness’ the band changing up a few aspects quite heavily – one being adding numerous members to the group, and two being to start pumping out forward rock jams, a drastic change from their mainly post-rock ambient styled first album “Feel Good Lost“.  One might think this could get quite messy.  Well, they pull it off, and it’s done so well that it’s still my favorite album of theirs!  Starting off where “Feel Good Lost left off, the album starts off with a post-rock ambient piece, and then leads directly into where the sound has grown up – rock based grooves with plenty of experimental noise of all sorts going on underneath.  Horn sections, waves of ambience, static based noise, tons of guitar distortion, and epic amounts of screaming through plenty of filters of many types.  This almost sums up the album, except you end up with pieces like the widely known ‘Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl‘, ‘Pacific Theme’, and ‘Looks Just Like The Sun’, hitting elements of ambient based indie folk tunes, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  ‘Anthems’ specifically has a special feel to it – they’re not joking around with that title – you feel like a seventeen year old girl hanging out in her room starting at the mirror and wondering about her emotional state.  ‘Pacific Theme’ takes you on a drive on Highway 101 through Northern California and Southern Oregon, exploding in on itself in one of the grooviest grooves ever right around the 4:10 mark.  The album consists of segments of similar sounds, usually three to four songs at a time, which makes the whole journey feel extremely conducive.  All in all, absolutely spectacular album, and now a for sure classic for the books!  Have to toss out another shout out to my old friend Steve Salisbury for turning me on to these guys (and this album) way back when!

: True Dream :
: The Night Again : 4×4 Records : 2011
:
~ pop.rock, doo-wop, folk, indie.rock, ambient ~

Seattle based Danny VanHollebeke comes marching out of the ether with his first full length LP under the alias True Dream.  The layers of which this pop masterpiece consist of make it easy to tell that nothing but the utmost consideration, concentration, and careful attention to detail have been placed into this work. Having spent seven years putting the album together with all it’s finishing touches, a story is woven here, a story of life, feelings, and consciousness at it’s level of striving for love.  The album presents itself to you in the form of pop, but boasts elements of waltz, ambient, metal, 60’s, 80’s, dream pop, doo-wop, and indie rock – all enveloped by a layer of light experimentalism to infuse it all together.  As Todd Hamm of the Seattle Weekly said, “think doom-wop”.  Even deeper we find out that all aspects of the music, including the vocals, are played and made by VanHollebeke.  At only 32 minutes, the piece will quickly bring you from happiness glee to reverent melancholy, keeping a fairly moving undertone throughout.  Personal favorites?  The whole thing!!  From the moment the title track reached my ear, and all the way through to the Brian Eno inspired ambient ‘Decomposition‘, Danny’s album has me captivated and invested, repeatedly.  I purchased the finished product sometime last year, it has been through constant rotation on all my players – at home base, and on the road.  You can find True Dream’s The Night Again on iTunes here:  |— CLICK —|  Fantastic work Danny!

: Demdike Stare :
: Elemental : Modern Love : 2012 :
~ dark.ambient, industrial, drone, techno, witch.house, experimental ~

Since 2009, the illusive Lancastrian outfit known as Demdike Stare have been birthing into the Universe some of the world’s most unusual and forward thinking sounds inside of the dark ambient/drone, witch house, and experimental realms.  Really though, their music is flat out at times, indescribable.  Hinting on elements of tribalism, folk, and neo-paganism, it seems as though Sean Cantry and Miles Whittaker are attempting to call back in the witches who were once running around rampant in the area the group comes from, especially with the “Demdike” name hailing from Elizabeth Southern, the supposed leader of the Pendle Witches.  After their three part release in 2010, I knew never to miss anything from the duo again.  Released as four parts on colored vinyl, with a full double-disc CD release in 2012, this new collection of works leaves you feeling as though some sort of ancient underworld Earthen being has gobbled up your thought processes, and spit them out into a dark new reality that makes you feel…haunted!  Even as OCD in describing genres as I love to be, this disc leaves me so floored that it’s hard to put into words.  Take the track “Mnemosyne” for instance – their is a backbone of some stripped down 135bpm dubstep styled beat in there, but beneath that, you feel as though you’re in the middle of a longhouse in the 1600’s and the coven you belong to is about to sacrifice some sort of lamb or goat or small furry animal – AND it’s a joyous occasion.  Elements of dark drone plaster the album, taking over sections of otherwise beat oriented music, out of no where.  Little nods to Aphex Twin’s more twisted and disturbing sound experiment works come out of the woodwork at times, making me think back to a track off 2001’s “Drukqs“, ‘Gwarek2‘, by far one of the more perverse 6 minutes of sound my mind can really think of.  All in all I could sit here and try and describe “Elemental” to you all day, but really you just need to bust out your best pair of speakers, turn off all the lights, sit next to a fire (inside or outside), and let yourself immerse into another world.  Genius work!

 : Scuba :
: DJ-Kicks : !K7 Records : 2011 :
~ 2-step, dubstep, techno, bass.music, ambient, glitch ~

If you haven’t heard of Paul Rose’s Scuba at this point, you’ve definitely been hiding under some sort of rock underneath the top layer of soil of the Earth for the past…oh, five years or so.  Probably more.  The official headmaster of one of the most forefront running labels out there today, Hotflush Recordings, Rose has been helping advance the sound of 2-step and dubstep alike now for over 10 YEARS – amazing really!  Everything this man touches that I have found, I have been into (minus maybe two or three songs on his latest LP, “Personality“).  This edition of the DJ-Kicks series is absolutely no exception.  Starting off with a lovely deep ambient piece to set the mood, from Hotflush’s Sigha, the mix begins with a churning of techno cross bred with 2-step influences and does nothing but pick up and get groovier from there.  Sitting around 132bpm for the length of the mix allows the blend between the crossover of styles to mesh flawlessly .  Track selection, programming, mixing – PERFECT.  You’ll notice that each song tracked out lasts for just over a minute to just under three minutes (with a few exceptions) – proof of the generous amount of layering going on between selected tracks for the majority of the journey.  Notable tracks to dig for on their own: Peverlist’s Sun Dance‘, Trevino’s Shorty‘, Boddika’s ‘Acid Battery‘, Scuba’s M.A.R.S.‘ (made specifically for the mix), Jichael Mackson’s Gedons‘, and Sepalcure’s gorgeous ‘Inside‘, which provides the mixes outro and end point.  This is how it’s done properly people – Know This!

Injoy.  See ya hopefully sooner than later this next time.  I’m going to attempt to do this once a week at this point, as well as randomly posting interesting bits of all sorts of finds from the net and beyond into this Blog, so, stay tuned!