- Following a sudden deluge of SoundCloud demos, his first US gig in eight years and a cutting-edge Field Day set that left many open-mouthed, Richard D. James's latest curveball landed when 40 rare or unreleased tracks hit the internet in neat, downloadable bundles. Most were bonus cuts tacked onto the end of classic albums, but there was one new EP, Orphans, which collected four tracks that originally surfaced on user48736353001's SoundCloud page in 2015. There's a nice story behind the first two: shortly after the release of Luke Vibert's Sorry I Make You Lush LP as Wagon Christ, in 2004, Future Music Magazine ran a remix competition that James entered (under the pseudonym Tahnaiya Russell) and won. "I had an advantage," James wrote in 2015. "I knew better than most what Luke liked!"
Orphans shows James in various mesmerising modes. On the first of two versions of "Spiral Staircase," he lifts the shimmering arpeggios from Vibert's "Sci-Fi Staircase" and crafts an exquisite slice of light-footed acid. It's punchy yet mellow, all gentle 303s, gauzy melodies and layers of organic drums that duck and dive at will. Given the current taste for breaks and breezy synths, it could be a late summer hit. There's not much between this and "AFX ALTremix b," except that the latter's shorter by a minute and noticeably quieter. ("Because the sub is so loud and low," wrote James.)
Pacy, boisterous and cheeky, "Nightmail1" is AFX as we know him best. Again, it's the drums that impress. After dozens of listens, I still get goosebumps the moment the lead jungle break thunders in at 43 seconds. But for all the EP's percussive weight, its standout track is the beatless "4x Atlantis Take1." The synergy between the scampering synths up top and the bassy swell below is utterly enchanting, stirring up feelings that are best captured in James's own language: "liferush."
01. Luke Vibert - Spiral Staircase (Future Music Competition, AFX Remix)
02. Luke Vibert- Spiral Staircase (Future Music Competition, AFX ALTremix b]
03. AFX - Nightmail1
04. AFX - 4x Atlantis Take1