It was a quiet decade for Richard D. James in the years leading up to the release of SYRO, his first real album under the Aphex Twin moniker since 2001. Sure, there was some awesome Analord records and releases as The Tuss, but nothing as formative and influential and moving as his earlier work on Warp Records.
And by then a whole legion of biters and imitators, armed with synths and tech and gear were all trying to make music that sounded just like his (or his labelmates Boards of Canada). There was a complete oversaturation of what was then called IDM or leftfield electronica, so much so that I can see why James might have decided it best to just sit back and let his earlier releases do the talking for him, because records like Selected Ambient Works vol. 2, and I Care Because You Do, and The Richard D. James Album mark a moment in time and sound, a moment in musical history, and for that reason alone they will never sound flat or feel dated.
James was the harbinger of lush analogue sounds and swirls and bleeps and bloops and beats and bass. And so, as his “sound” became ubiquitous in the electronic world in the early 2000’s, it became easy to forget the music that inspired this new generation of musicians.
Then, finally, as if rewarding us on our good behaviour over his decade-long silence he dropped SYRO, a frantic, gorgeously produced album of all that Aphex Twin does right. And I love it, I really do, but a part of me was always like, “Yeah it’s fuckin’ good and stuff, and it sounds unbelievable in headphones, but I can’t help but feel a little let down for some reason … I don’t know what I was hoping for or expecting, I just wanted more.”
Flash forward to the first weeks of 2015: And he releases Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP, an experimental and very different collection of tracks from SYRO, yet oddly alluring and enjoyable, because let’s face it, it’s more new music from Aphex Twin!
But now we’re getting to the good part, guys…
On January 27th, 2015 (my birthday), a mysterious user on Soundcloud begins uploading pretty much a song an hour, and doesn’t stop until there’s a 110 tracks on the site. By then, the interwebs had literally exploded with theories and comments and ideas (see: WATMM), yet the general consensus was that if this music was fake Aphex Twin then we would rather not hear what real is, because it was so goddamn fucking good!
The music he dumped on Soundcloud (now being called “Surfing on Soundclouds”), is like listening to all of James’ earlier masterpieces, but in an alternate reality or Bizzaro world. It is just unbelievable that music of this caliber has remained dormant and forgotten on old cassettes and DAT’s and broken hard-drives for decades.
Spanning 30 odd years, the collection (now at 155 songs in total) is already the best music released in 2015, and arguably the finest music of James’ career. It is moving and nostalgic and sweeping and gorgeous and merciless. It is Aphex Twin.
Thank you and thank you again, sir! Because this is a real treat. Check it!