Monday, September 29, 2014

syro has landed!

So, it has been about a week since the long awaited Aphex Twin album SYRO dropped. After some heavy rotation at the Loya house, it's safe to say RDJ is definitely back. In fact, I'm loving the album, most of it at least, and while folks had certain expectations and assumptions of how it should have sounded, it's a real winner with both the critics and the fans. It also looks like the world is finally catching up to IDM (intelligent dance music), Electronic Listening Music, or as Richard D. James would like to say, "Braindance". Still, "Braindance" just doesn't quite sum it up, as the true intelligence in this record and much of RDJ's output is the amount of heart and emotion throughout. Not the sappy, forced, overly dramatic kind, but something simultaneously more genuine and mysterious. As a longtime fan, I have to admit to missing some of the rawer, fuzzier production style of earlier Aphex Twin releases, back when he was still a young buck hunched over his gear on his bedroom floor, however, the layers of melodies, harmonies, beats and rhythms can get so dense at times, anything less than clean could have resulted in a muddy mess. At the same time SYRO is by no means a sterile production, not even remotely.

Some highlights for me include the dark future-funk of opening track "mini pops 67", and the subsequent epic audio journey that is the beautiful and bittersweet "Xmas_Evet10". I still can't decide if the latter track could have used a couple of minutes shaved off of it's ten-minute plus running time, though there's something to be said for allowing a piece of music to evolve organically, allowing it to patiently run it's course, a rarity in this day and age. Other tracks I love are the last three, including the acid-tinged, melody-fueled Drum n' Bass mutations that are "Papat4" and "s950tx16wasr10" (tracks 10 and 11), both complex, emotional, tough-as-nails compositions, harking back to Richard's junglist-days, still sounding alive and fresh as ever. The final, minimalist and achingly beautiful piano track, "aisatsana", written for his wife, is a perfect ending to a highly-engaging and ultimately satisfying listening experience. Most of the rest of the album's tracks are pretty fantastic too, however, it would have been a perfect release if track 5, called "180db" was removed - a throwaway nod perhaps to his roots in the UK rave scene, but a somewhat annoying three minute waste of listening-space in my opinion. Then there is track 7, called "fz pseudotimestretch+e+3", a track whose title is far longer than the song itself. It starts out beautifully, developing into something quite special, only to end at under a minute! Honestly, I'm not sure what the reasoning was behind this, but it sounded like it had potential to be amazing, then poof, gone. Finally, the one track that would have made this a five-star album can be found on the Japanese-only import release, called "MARCHROMAT30Aedit 2b 96" (see/hear below). Why this wasn't included on the US and Europe versions again, eludes logic. I'll never understand the deal with even having "Japanese only import" versions.

So, in a nutshell, the king is back and in fine form. What is an 8/10 could very well have been a perfect ten with a few minor adjustments, however, either way, I'm just thankful to get another great Aphex Twin LP after all these years. What made me smile was seeing the album at number 18 on release day last week(I even took a screen shot on my I-phone) on the Amazon charts, for all music, amidst a lot of crap, leading me to believe there is still hope for great, intelligent and original music to thrive in the world.