Aphex Twin- Syro
For many of us, hearing that Aphex Twin was intent on releasing new material was as big as My Bloody Valentine’s release in 2013. For me it was definitely a bigger deal. Aphex Twin was always up there with names like Squarepusher and Venetians Snares in my list of mind-blowing electronic music influences, and I’m happy to say he’s still kept his place in my heart. His latest release, Syro, is nothing short of awesome. In all it feels like a curated selection of works recorded at different times and places throughout the past few years during which time there was drought of output. It is, in a sense, a way to make up for lost time and move on.
To those who are unfamiliar with the work of Richard D. James, this is not really the kind of music you’d try to dance to, but it does lean in that direction a little more than his previous work has, especially in the first half of the album with songs like ‘Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix]’ and ‘Produk 29 ’. Another thing these two songs share in common, and something very characteristic of James’ style, are the dark and eerie sensibilities of harmonic progression. The opening track, ‘Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix]’ is a great example of how he juxtaposes rhythm with melody; the song is danceable but at the same time it projects this creepy vibe via dissonant interactions between melodic lines.
And it gets creepier. ‘CIRCLONT14 [152.97][Shrymoming Mix]’ feels like something straight out of a horror film, most likely about alien abductions or a zombie virus, at least for the first minute before the percussion comes in and sets the fast pace. You’d probably hurt yourself if you tried dancing to this.
And then there’s songs like ‘CIRCLONT6A [141.98][Syrobonkus Mix]’ which stands apart from the scary vibe, with sawtooth synths and a barrage of bit-crushed instruments rushing past you. Glitchy all over. There’s this moment at 4:15 that is absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve heard, and it’s because of the newly introduced chords which are simply triumphant. This is one of the few tracks where the sense of harmony is pretty consonant throughout in so much as that it doesn’t make you feel uneasy or out of one’s element. The changes play out very much like a scene from a film, rapidly switching between cuts and moving the story forward each second. You have to pay attention or you’ll get lost before you’ve reached the end.
The album wraps up with its most outlying track, ‘Aisatsana ’, a solo piano with samples of birds chirping, but that brief description alone doesn’t do it justice. It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching and impacting, especially in comparison with the preceding songs.
In short, Syro is a versatile compilation that doesn’t necessarily push the limitations any further than Aphex Twin already has (which is pretty damn far) but reaffirms a master’s potential to create something incredible. It’s the kind of thing that could only be done by the microcentric genius himself, and the good news is that there’s more to come. Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for another collaboration with director Chris Cunningham sometime in the future.