Aphex Twin continues to deliver with highly antipated Syro.
Thirteen years ago, Richard Davis James’ last album, Druqs, was released marking the beginning of a hiatus for his alias: Aphex Twin. During those thirteen long years he took up new names and published songs to remain anomalous. As though Aphex Twin was awoken from slumber by the fan’s success in obtaining the unpublished album Caustic Window, Richard finally announced the release of a new album by launching a lime green blimp over the streets of London sporting his signature pi shaped emblem. Soon after this, other teasers spawned, such as a tracklist posted somewhere deep within the internet. Richard definitely knew how to make a grand re-entrance with Syro, but did his innovative music ingenuity stay constant throughout the years?
After listening to the first song, it’s easy to deduce that the album was created with an emphasis on detail and complexity. There is never one bar that is repeated exactly like a bar before. It’s almost as if there is an organic nature in the electronic rhythms, constantly adapting and flowing throughout every track. The greatest example of this being the second track, “XMAS_EVET10,” containing a solid ten minutes of ever changing acidic melodies and punchy percussives.
All of Aphex Twin’s classic sound styles return with new twists. From subtly wacky synth intros and distorted raves, to downright schizophrenic drum patterns tied with equally complicated and destroyed vocal samples. There is also a profoundly melancholic piano piece that rivals the emotional impact of both Avril 14th and Nanou 2. If you are interested of its origin, there is a version of this piece being played on an automated piano swinging back and forth on a pendulum that was uploaded to YouTube two years ago. This video is also evidence that the songs on Syro could have been put through the production process during any time within the past 13 years.
Perhaps this album is a collection of Richard’s favorite tracks he has created over the years. Though knowing Richard’s personality makes it equally easy to hypothesize that the track list is made up of songs he simply was tired of producing. I’d argue that with his recent openness to reception and interviews, as well as his grand re entrance, that this album was a gesture of pure excitement from Richard, rather than him pompously cracking open the supposed flood gate of hundreds of unreleased tracks he has in store.
Regardless of his intentions, every technique Aphex Twin is known to excel at is amplified in this album. There is nothing entirely spectacular to be observed—besides the traits of his usual production style— in comparison to the rest of his discography. You don’t need to watch for faces or swirls being drawn into spectrograms, like he did in his Windowlicker release, and there is no need to purchase special speakers to hear Easter eggs engraved into certain frequencies of any given song. It’s simply Richard James creating a perfect continuation of his discography, as if thirteen years did not pass between his last album. Don’t get me wrong; there definitely are new interesting aspects in his music that remind the industry why Aphex Twin is at the top of his field. To put it simply, Syro is essentially a reminder to everyone that Richard has not lost his flavor and that he can still produce music with mastery.
Recommended if you like: Squarepusher, Clark, Dopplereffekt, Objekt, anything on Warp Records
Recommended tracks: “minipops 67,” “4 bit 9d api+e+3,” “PAPAT4,” and “syro u473t8+e”
Reviewed by Shane Blair on September 23, 2014