2014 has marked one of the most eagerly anticipated and unexpected comebacks in recent musical history. After thirteen years of abstinence, a pioneer of British electronic music breaks the silence with his twelve-track album, Syro.
The career of Richard D. James exploded in the late 1980s, where he led the electronic music movement while still in his adolescence, and under a plethora of aliases (AFX, Polygon Window, Caustic Window, Dice Man, Blue Calx, to name a few). Throughout the most active period of his career – notably the 1990s – Aphex Twin’s style yo-yoed erratically across the electronic music spectrum, from intellectual to rave. The downtempo style of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and some Polygon Window releases cultivated the IDM movement, which characterised Warp Records’ zenith. More hardcore flavours were hinted at in a handful of songs off the 2001 album Drukqs and 1992’s Digeridoo EP, which came to be the dominating sound of Belgian label R&S Records.
Comments have been made about Syro being Aphex Twin reverting to his original sound, but the album is actually a compilation of twelve tracks that have sprouted at various moments over the past twenty years, spanning his whole career. This comes as no surprise seeing as, around 1991 when Richard was only nineteen, he claimed that he already had twenty albums recorded and ready to go.
The album is densely packed with digital complexities which derive from an intense electronic set-up at home. Earlier this month, Aphex Twin told Rolling Stone of the five (and a half) studios he built in his home to create his various sounds. A long way to come from bedroom-producing in his Cornish hometown with electronic instrument machines he had built himself.
After very mixed reviews on Drukqs, Richard has hand-picked his tracks carefully for Syro. Well loved Aphex Twin elements that essentially shaped electronic music across the world, are present in every song on the album. This amalgamation varies from the hyper-speed break that inspired British garage and drum and bass in ‘S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)’ to the piano finale ‘Aisatsana’, capable of breaking hearts worldwide. This is perfectly reflective of Drukqs track ‘Avril 14th’, which Kanye West infamously stole for his track with John Legend ‘Blame Game’. The album, not short of unnecessarily complicated and indecipherable track names, acts as a comprehensive history of Aphex Twin’s stylistic evolution. The wobbly pitch melody of ‘XMAS_EVET10 (Thanaton3 Mix)’ and Windowlicker-esque vocals and synths of ‘4 bit 9d api+e+6’ are all present in their sparkly brilliance, as if no time has passed at all.
A mastermind who treats his prolific ability with a coyness and modesty which is most admirable, Aphex Twin continues to cover musical ground from contrasting ends of the spectrum with unbounded success. The long awaited Syro is now available to download from Warp’s music store Bleep. For more Aphex, check out our list of his best tracks.