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Posted on September 27th, 2014 (12:00 pm) by Andy Belt

Richard D. James (aka Aphex Twin) has always been a master of subtlety. For example, take the cover for his most famous single, 1999’s “Windowlicker”. Everything’s in its right place, until…well, you get it. The same can be said for his music- familiar dance beats that are slightly skewed for an increased uneasiness or tension. It seems only fitting then, that after 13 years away from the spotlight, Aphex Twin quietly emerged from the shadows by simply emblazoning his logo to a blimp that took to the skies of London, heralding that something was in the works. Indeed, James has returned and with his new album, Syro, he picks up where he left off by creating ambient IDM sans rules or boundaries.

The twitchy beats and delightful schizophrenic pulse that has propelled the majority of James’ work are still intact. In fact, James even said in a recentPitchfork interview, “Syro’s not that new for me. Maybe just the composition’s changed, but there’s no next-level beats on there.” You can almost feel James’ signature Cheshire Cat grin gleaming behind this somewhat true statement. For while there might not be anything we haven’t heard before from the producer, he’s still delivering us near flawless beats and arrangements that almost no one else has come close to touching this year.

On Syro, James sounds like the Willy Wonka of techno (not to mention, both share reclusive natures). Behind every door lies limitless possibilities and it feels as though we’re entwined within his warped reality that’s in constant motion. The album grinds and gyrates like a factory that uses both human and robotic assistance to operate.

Distorted vocal samples consistently fade in and out, breathing fleeting signs of organic life into tracks like the shape-shifting opener “Minipops 67” and “Syro uf73t8+e”. But James still endows these machines with a life all their own. Apprehension and uncertainty ring through on “180 db” and behind that glitchy dance groove we’re left wondering if we should be dancing or worrying. There are a few glance-at-the-clock moments (including the ten-minute plus “XMAS_EVET10”), but though some tracks can be overlong, James rarely bores.

For the finale, James tosses the computers to the wayside for a stark piano piece showing off his classical influences. A clear outlier, “Aisatsana” finds the producer in a natural setting, quite literally. Recordings of birds chirp as James plunks out solitary notes that echo through the vast space he’s manufactured. After all of the controlled chaos that has preceded it, “Aisatsana” is not only a reprieve, but proof that James can pinpoint and lock on to instances of unadulterated beauty within the mechanized madness.

Track List:

  1. “Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix)”
  2. “XMAS_EVET10 (Thanaton3 Mix)”
  3. “Produk 29”
  4. “4 bit 9d api+e+6 4:29”
  5. “180_db”
  6. “CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix)”
  7. “Fz pseudotimestretch+e+3”
  8. “CIRCLONT14 (Shrymoming Mix)”
  9. “Syro u473t8+e (Piezoluminescence Mix)”
  10. “PAPAT4 (Pineal Mix)”
  11. “S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)”
  12. “Aisatsana”
Aphex Twin: Syro
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

83 / 100
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