Much has been made of the time that has passed since the release of the last proper Aphex Twin album, Drukqs. While it would be misleading to portray Richard James as having existed in some kind of techno wilderness for the last 13 years (this supposed fallow period was actually pretty well filled by labours under different monikers and in shorter formats), there is no denying that Syro is being released into a different world, and under a heavier weight of expectation than its 2001 predecessor.
Right from the chunky metallic harmonics of opener minipops 67 (the one track made available much in advance of Syro’s carefully choreographed release), those worried that James’ powers may have diminished over time will rest easy. The man generally regarded as a master in his field has produced a new work that is at once familiar and cutting edge, and which may also be his best to date.
XMAS_EVET10 perhaps epitomises the multi-faceted aural wonders on offer here. One might describe the beat underlying it as commercial and the synth melodies as soul-pop were it not for the fact that said beat is fired by such a varied arsenal of percussion – from chirping bongos to squelching staccato static – and the treatment of the synths increases until they bound around like the ethereal vocalisations of a demented robot choir.
Make no mistake: this is not just an album for fan boys to blog about. Syro is a dance record too. The pounding, breaking rave of 180db_ is positively warehouse-sized (albeit a warehouse sporadically echoing with sinister pained orchestral strings) and s950tx16wasr10 tears along in a fit of joyfully jittering drum and bass that will become a powerful weapon on the right set of decks.
It’s hard to think of an album more anticipated by fans than Syro has been since the first cryptic clues to its impending arrival appeared two months ago, so it’s all the more refreshing that it delivers. Formed from the unmistakable palette of darkly evolving rhythm and skittering synths that fans will expect, Syro also manages to mine enough seams of compelling experimental flair and left-field humour to mark progression, evolution and a contender for record of the year.
Syro is released on 22nd September 2014, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for mini pops 67 here: