Aphex Twin - SYRO

by Bryn Dawson

Not many acts can claim to have inspired a whole generation of artists and genres whilst still maintaining originality throughout the course of their entire career. Aphex Twin, a.k.a Richard D. James, has always been an innovator. Inspired and drawn to the fervour of madness that only electronic music can create, Aphex Twin is a creator unparalleled on the electro scene. James introduced sounds and structures so unlike anything previously created and was hailed instantaneously as a genius. Success however, has been followed by a period of chosen obscurity and for more than 13 years since his last release (Drukqs), Aphex Twin has dwelt in the Scottish wilds severed from media and fans alike. Syro announces the master’s return to his former prominence and will leave fans salivating at the products of more than a decade’s worth of work. The virtuoso, it seems, has returned from his slumber.

Aphex Twin’s albums notoriously reject any kind of musical template and, on occasion, innovation has really translated as vast impenetrable tangles of sound. Drukqs (2001) contained many a manic incomprehensible piece, with the addition of slower more melancholic areas leading to, in the end, a rather disjointed production. SYRO however, manages to combine the erratic uninhibited spasms of noise characteristic of James and blend it, to a greater degree of success, with moments of serenity.

SYRO isn’t an album I’d put on to dance to, as it contains next to no repetition and probably would result in a lot of bemused people on the dance floor. Rather, it is an album made by an artist of real sentimental worth. This results in something truly memorable, not to be replaced by the next catchy hook that the Top 40 usually manufactures. For example, a dreary journey down the M4, marveling at the triviality of life, transforms under the awe of this album.

Tracks such as PAPAT4 [155][Pineal Mix] or XMAS-EVET10 [120][thanaton3 mix] simply sound like something from another time. The combination of sounds from a variety of different electronic synthesizers and computer programmes simply fits and provides calm. Furthermore, the album sounds unsurprisingly a lot fuller than the 90s (Selected Ambient Works) range, but also compared to other albums. Where space existed on previous works, the atmospheric noise employed here provides for a more stimulating experience.

However, it must also be said that the album is not for everyone and if the listener is unfamiliar with Aphex Twin then this will be a tough, perhaps unpleasant listening experience to begin with. Yet within time the marvels of James’ music do appear. Unfortunately, there are certainly points where the album is a little disappointing, or just that little bit too innovative so as to verge on un-listenable. The aggressive samples at the start of fz pseudotimestretch+e+3[138.85] are just so awkwardly thrown together that there seems very little objective other than being ‘edgy’. However, these moments are, on the whole, limited.

Overall, Richard has resumed his role as a pioneering force in electronic music, managing to carry his legacy past inactivity and back to where he left off, at the forefront of musical admiration. This is a man that is so highly thought of that he laughs at the futile attempts of Radiohead to get him to tour with them. Yet with this album, James has not run on esteem at all. Rather, he has produced yet another mind-bending production that has pushed the bar even higher.