- The most talked-about EP of the year lives up to the hype.
- Artists as unique as Richard D. James, AKA Aphex Twin, should only be held to their own incredibly high standards. Trying to compare his music to that of others, or to position it within established genres or trends, is pointless—it's all about how the latest record compares to the rest of them. With James, a telling indicator of quality is shock factor. "T69 Collapse," the lead single from the Collapse EP, was saved by its curveball middle section, where, out of nowhere, the pretty, spluttering composition deconstructed in a cacophony of squalls and drum rolls. It felt feral and alive.
The rest of the EP is full of these kinds of left-turns, moments abstract enough to grab your attention and human enough to keep it. "1st 44," which, with its high-octane combo of tender pads and squirmy synths, sounds like something off 2014's Syro LP, is so restless you can almost picture James jamming in real-time. During the breakdown, the sample loop points click repeatedly, kinks that most producers would iron out for fear of sounding amateur. Here, they add a ghostly quality.
35 seconds into "MT1 t29r2," a track some people will remember from Field Day 2017, a raucous synth line appears, erupting over half-time percussion to form the EP's best moment. Less than 30 seconds later, we're dipped into a pool of blissful ambience. These extremes, the constant unpredictability, make the music thrilling. But it can also frustrate: the synth line only appears twice across six minutes. Any other artist, having written such a killer hook, might have let you enjoy it more.
The final two tracks are mellower and more linear, if such a word can ever be used to describe James's music. With its footwork-style vocals and percussion, "abundance10edit[2 R8's, FZ20m & a 909]" is a nod to James's recent interest in artists like Jlin, though the track is not, as some speculated, a collaboration with the US artist. The best bits—a gauzy melody, a jolly synth line, a chilling childlike vocal—come at the beginning and end, leaving the middle section a bit sparse. "pthex," which saunters along at 75 BPM, is more gripping, with a twinkly melody and myriad sound effects—spray cans, explosions, cars whizzing by—sprinkled across bassy kicks. With 75 seconds to go, the sounds suddenly start to slow and stretch. Bass tones reverberate like bombs in the distance and comet-like synths glide in slow motion. After 30 minutes of near-total delirium, you're faced with nothing but silence.
A1 T69 Collapse
A2 1st 44
B1 MT1 t29r2
B2 abundance10edit[2 R8's, FZ20m & a 909]