Last year we got new Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, and Boards of Canada. This year we got new Death from Above 1979 (next on my "to listen to and review" list) and Aphex Twin??? Like, what is going on? Is there suddenly way more money to be made in music now? Did they have some sort of secret bet?
Aphex Twin is sorta unique in that it seems like, as had always been rumored, he actually had been composing and recording music the whole time, and just not releasing any. And now some of it is actually coming out... maybe it has something to do with the whole Caustic Window thing popping up? Maybe he's just bored? I read a bit of some interview where he said he wanted it to be like, his own system of backup... like, he felt the best way for his music to survive was to put it in the hands of the masses. So he basically doesn't care either way if anyone else hears it... this is just his own project, through and through.
Which honestly seems to be apparent in his music... there's always some quality of it working towards some other, secret, goals. There's something else going on there, that's for sure. Like, something on top of the five million things that you can hear going on. I don't think there's many people that can contend with him for the crown of most complex electronica... Autecture, maybe?
Umm whatever this preamble is pretty pointless. Aphex Twin was an absolute legend before I started listening to this sort of music. I don't think there's anything I can say about him that hasn't been said before. If you're reading this, you probably already know what's up, and if you don't, there's probably better ways to find out. Let's get going on this.
Aphex Twin - Syro
1. minipops 67 (source field mix)
This was the single, I listened to it a few times already. Man, what a great song... Like, from the first 20 seconds there's already a basically uncountable number of musical elements. And then this vocals! Holy christ every vocal effect he ever uses is just so original and addictive. I always wish I could make those sounds but that's dumb. I looove at 1:00 when it strips away a bit and there's that high pitched melody. And there's such an urgent energy to everything, it feels like every beat is progressive, that it pushes the track forward. I don't know how to describe it... it's like every sound, the attack of it is such that more notes are suggested. Jesus wow... the way it "chills out" again at 2:20, but it's less of a reduction, like... even if you just graphed the musical elements present, purely in number, over time, that graph alone would look interesting. And wow these choral effects! omg I love the vocals at 3:10ish SO MUCH, and then that really muted pianoey sound, this just sounds so GENIUS. There's that swampy sorta sound you get on stuff like Logan Bog Witch or whatever that song was called. man i want to sing along with this. seems fucked. omg. so good. how. ***
2. XMAS_EVET10 (thanaton3 mix)
spooooooky... nnnnnngh these vocal effects... wow this is really funky. what a full and close sound... and awww yeah those drums... such a restrained breakbeat, and yet so much energy behind it. yo s m t f o, this is like... the way the more subtle elements like the piano and those wavey synths come in after the more kinetic elements, that's really genius. It's like the track is "filling out" from underneath or something. and these super "shiny" echoey vocals... there's a strange sort of "band jamming" feel to this. oh man sometimes the melody just dives down an octave and the bass just rumbles out, that's so sick. ahahaha and the beat like, it stuttered up and cut out, and now the synths are stuttering a bit, he has this sense of rhythmic elements propagating. SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON. feels like anything can happen one second to the next. and wow okay the melody did this sort of thing at 4:12 where it went into like a different "song", it felt like it was doing a medley of songs and it went into the next one, it felt like it was playing the chorus of some other song, does that make sense? oh man I love the frequency of the beats here. I love how he put the bpm of every track too omg that's so cool. this is just nuts. and it isn't even half over lmao. and this is just the second track omg. i'm so happy. thank you so much rdj. hey did anyone ever thing rjd2 was just richard d james too??? lol. i like these choral bells and Wwoowoow that sample at like 6:10 is nuts that was really the nuts. now it feels like the track is very resonant, and all the elements are resonating together. inwards, or something. i dunno. makes me want to say things that make no sense. that sorta music. nonsense music. haha wow 7:20 had like a sample that was like raw essence of hip hop and then the beat came on stronggg, it was such a good effect. the bells in the upper register have this weird effect on them that i think shlohmo uses too. oh and the vocals at 8:30 sorta do too. and omg these drums, these really wooden sounding drums, i always love that sound so much. hollow and close... this real tribal jam feeling here. and then sometimes a really loud buzz low into the left channel, i love that. oh and like something is "emerging" from it, that's sick. la la, la la, la la, la la la la. wow. **
3. produk 29
those are some HEAVY beats man. this feels "retro" hahahhaha. like some space ship stuff, and this sorta jazzy piano. okay the way these piano chords sink and rise is CLASSIC aphex and NO ONE else can do it like OMG and the way the drums go into slow triplets too is gdlke. this sort of abrupt feel to the beats contrasted with the sustain in the "horn" sorta sound, and then these like... runs of synths that seem like they move on their own, like, they feel like you hit one button and they make that whole run of sounds... idk if that makes sense. and other sounds sound like stars. haha the sample at 1:40ish, so british. i wonder where this came from. "like, we were in that club", feels very real. hahaha wowww at 2:50 that little melody... omg... this is 2spook. this is some alien sounding stuff. alien twin. alien mode. sometimes he makes a melody that's actually complicated af and doesn't actually make sense when you think about it but when you hear it sounds sensible and simple but also unlike anything you've heard. i think he must somehow try every sequence of notes because otherwise how could you ever find these things. i think he must have a magic quantum computer in his brain. i love the rawness of those claps. good. solid track. a bit more british samples. fucking whore lmbo. **
4. 4 bit 9d api+e+6
lol these titles. this is a real classic aphex banger sound. that "bass" synth "noodling" and this panorama of choral sounds. these songs feel like an attack from all directions, i love it. feels like anything can happen. it's so sonorous, so resonant... and then other elements are restrained and kinetic. wow i love the "bend" on stuff around 2:20... such a simple effect, such a great effect. wait no probably not even that simple at all lmao. okay that sound at like 3:00, the like.. uh... i have no idea how to describe it. such an offensive sound, i love it. and the contrast with those warm angelic voices welling up... how does he think of these things? a gorillion years in the lab... and now the bendy sort of elements coming back in... and this minimal outro. cool. **
i feel like this is telling me to listen to this much louder than i'm humanly capable of. this is some bass rattles stars out the sky sorta bass. wow the way the drums come in is really tight. there's a really sorta claustrophobic sound to this... a feeling of like, the sound surrounding me, enveloping me. and then also moving me downhill. like a big avalanche. static avalanche. i wonder if this would make a good stepchart lol i have no idea. and those vertigo-esque strings... cool stuff... i'm glad he's still making songs like this, too, which is more just one idea than like fifty thousand ideas. ironically this much more familiar structure is now totally disorienting haha. the way he drops off all the elements besides that one hellish synth line and then adds in those gigantic thumping drums... so cool. so many good ideas. **
6. CIRCLONT6A (syrobonkus mix)
141.98 BPM LET'S GO. WEIRD SAMPLES LET'S GO. like five directions the song can go in suggested. straight up game boy esque sounds. game boy menu select sounds. yes. yes. MORE. this feels really "wet" and "noodly", it feels like it's sliding around between different ideas of it's own volition. if that makes sense (it prolly doesn't make sense). I wish I had better ways to describe various sounds lol. onomatopoeias wouldn't work, we don't have letters for these sounds. wow this has so much energy, i want a stepchart of this asap lol. wowowowow the "game boy" line is doing such interesting things. the stuttering, the drills... so cool. and then these semi-vocal things, like, a really abstract idea of a voice. SO much stuff going on and it's only the halfway point. This is like... hyper. Hypermusic. Like um... isn't there some sort of geometry? Hyperbolic? Jesus lmao what am I talking about. The density of the synths around 3:50 is very pleasant. OH WOW at like 4:15 there's like the most severe stuttering effect ever and oh man the chip sounds going like haywire and wowow there's just way too much to describe. This goes everywhere, this is going everywhere at once. And then the outro dials things back in terms of number of elements but those elements are still going crazy, so crazy. Cool. Very nice. ***
7. fz pseudotimestretch+e+3
ummmm i have no idea what is happening here. another sort of experimental one i guess. woooowww though okay, i REALLY like this melody. it sounds sorta like UMM a song off in rainbows but i can't remember which one haha. okay that was neat. *
8. CIRCLON14 (shrymoming mix)
ohh... very restrained intro... this is gonna be a big one. and then the crazy noodling bassy synth again... just sort of spasming lol. spasming and leaking other sounds. beautiful. okay the drums coming in at 0:50 was 2 good, way 2 good 4 me. this one is 150 bpm, that's like my favorite bpm atm. These drums are really getting active now. Very aggressive. I feel like it's accelerating, I love the panning of the vocals, I love everything i can hear and I can hear more things than I could have imagined. wow the "breakdown" at 2:10 is crazy, jam of the singularity. i want to whistle along because it seems like just the craziest melody ever. like the sort of thing mchen makes accidentally in fruity loops hahahaha. mchen is a friend of mine don't worry about it. Okay the really rapidly panned and distorted female vocals is probably my favorite aphex twin "trick" and it is in FULL effect here. And then the energy of those drums coming up... this is so cool. wow... there's so much going on here... this review is so silly... i couldn't hope to describe 10% of these tracks, let alone describe why they're so cool. haha. oh well. haha like at 5:10 now there's some bell sorta sound, just tapping away in the "corner", like, how do you even try to explain why that sounds so good? And then these vocal effects coming back in, feeling like they're surrounding you, and wowow the suddenness of the transition, and yet how natural it feels, like the emergence of elements is completely inevitable. It really feels like there's a drum player that "wants to get in there" and play alongside the keyboard player, you know? It has that sort of energy. Except they're all robots. This is like TAS music. but i mean it is, literally. ***
9. syro u473t8+e (piezoluminescence mix)
Is this the title track? Title track get hype?? this is pretty cool. The same sort of vocal effects as the previous one. This album feels very continuous in a lot of ways. A lot of elements recur, a lot of the tracks are in the same sort of "mode". it's cool. i feel like some sort of hour long mix could be made of this and it would be awesome. at 2:00ish they did like chimes and then this cheery synth... there's a lot of elements that are both "cheery" and "sinister", just like every facial expression we ever see rdj make lol. wow i love the thing he does at 2:50, just increasing the speed of a little austinato until it becomes something else entirely. wow these sounds are so sharp, so pealing. like little ice needles. and then at 3:40 it calms down in a major way, but there's these lines still having so much "fun" in the background. WOW, DON'T EVEN NEED TO LOOK, I ALREADY KNOW I'M GETTING IN ON THE PERFECT LINE - best video on youtube. this is so sick. haha wowwowowo. i love when he has a melody that alternates between simple precise notes and then chaotic runs up and down. and then wow this like, cutlery on glasses sort of drumkit, where do these sounds keep coming from? it is so fun to imagine. And then the outro becomes very spacey and subdued, but still with these complex kinetic sounds. neat! **
10. PAPAT4 (pineal mix)
pineal like pineal gland? like how crazy people thing fluoride calcifies it? wow this is coool. it feels kinda triumphant. i love these drums, the intensity of them... there's a raw edge on them like broken glass. owow haha at 2:00 it was like he dumped a big barrel of sound on the track, just raw sewage sound, and then it like, sorted itself out on the existing rhythmic structure. and these sharp clappy drums, and wow at 2:40 there's this awesome chugging sound, like a train going or something, super sick. too cool. this is funky as hell and wow those almost vocal type synths. yes. again. very cool. **
11. S950tx16wasr10 (earth portal mix)
typing that out felt like having a small brain defect or something. really classic kit of sounds employed here, really intense drums. good. ohohohoho the mixup at 0:50, it's like he picked up an invincibility powerup or something haha idk. this one is 163.97bpm, fastest song on the album, almost as fast as red zone lol. this is great... idk... very few things I can say about music like this i think lol. Around 3:20, there's a sense of like, broken displacement that I think is really neat. and then at 3:30 it's almost silly how good that sounds, like, it should not sound that good. I love how full and warm the lower sounds are, alongside the really alien vocals and the spasmodic drums. really feels like a full alien landscape. this is so addictive... i feel like this album is all i'm gonna listen to for a few weeks. #youngthugwho? haha i love how precise the sort of ticking drum track at the end here is. that's sick. okay good job. **
haha omg. sweet. birds and pianos. you read my mind man. avril 15 time?? that's a really stupid thing to say whoops. this is like that pokemon stadium minigame where you had to mimic clefairy. okay another stupid thing to say. this is really pretty. that's okay. that's what it is. i love when you can hear the sound of the piano pedal. like, how do you get that sort of intimate piano tone? i wouldn't be surprised if i could hear him breathing. yeah... this is nice. ooh. the low note at 3:00. ooh. and then how high it gets at 3:35ish... so nice... just a little exploration of the piano's space. aisatsana is a really sweet name too. probably gonna steal it for something or other eventually. nice chord at the end... okay, that's it :) **
Okay I have a theory about this album
That was really great, but when you compare it to previous elements, there's some strange stuff. Like, I think it's much less diverse than previous albums. When you look at Richard D James Album, I Care Because You Do or even Come to Daddy, almost every song is in a completely different aesthetic mode. There'd be radically different instrumentation, different synth sounds, everything. Moreover, it felt like they had different "goals". They were trying to accomplish different things, they were trying to highlight different aspects. Here, I feel like a lot of the tracks had the same "goal".
And I think that's explained by my theory about the way this album came together. I think his previous albums came from the mindset of "I want to make an album, I'm going to work to come up with around 12 tracks that make up the album", whereas this one was more "For whatever reason I want to release some music after like a decade, I'll just take the 12 in progress tracks I'm most happy with at the moment". It feels like almost all the tracks are all attempts he's made to capture something... some sort of goal song that he can imagine. And he knows that it'll have certain elements, and those are the elements that he tries out in each and every of those songs - the really noodly synth line, some sort of distorted vocal and piano line, drums ofc. I think the very "raw" title tracks, full of internal codes to keep them sorted from hundreds of other attempted mixes and variations, suggest this. I think the album art, which I think breaks down where the cost of each album sale goes exactly, also suggests this, but I'm not sure how.
Do you kinda get what I mean? And the result is something that is cool because it's so continuous and progressive, and so well blended... it has an aesthetic to itself that nothing else has, and you get to enjoy it for an hour. But at the same time, it's a much different sort of album experience because there isn't that variety, there isn't that balance, it's so much more singular in objective. So I dunno. It's very hard to compare it to his earlier releases.
It is still really amazingly good though, wow. The track I think he has in mind would probably be the greatest piece of electronic music ever recorded, and his attempts are beautiful and compelling in their own right. Plus, the feeling of seeing him seek for it, for that perfect form of music... something that seems to have occupied him for a decade, and probably further back than that, and seeing all these attacks from different angles, all these wonderful attempts to reach it, that too is compelling. Instead of a showcase of a variety of things he's mastered, here we see 12 attempts at something he can't quite touch. It's a rare look at a genius mind incredibly hard at work. I want to hear more.