syro

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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