Aphex Twin – Syro

It has finally arrived: after a cleverly conceived and typically enigmatic promotional campaign the new Aphex Twin album has dropped, some thirteen years after Drukqs closed a decade long domination of the electronic scene by Limerick born Richard D James. James is regularly cited as the most influential electronic musician of his era with a string of innovative albums in the nineties earning him the kind of respect that saw him transcend his chosen genre.

The news that James was about to release something under the Aphex Twin moniker was always likely to generate feverish expectation after such a long absence but in truth, he has never really been away. During that thirteen year gap, he recorded under an array of pseudonyms, often refusing to confirm that he was behind releases by The Tuss and AFX.
But this is Aphex Twin, a name synonymous with some of the most pioneering contemporary music of our age and already, new album Syro is garnering glowing praise.

Syro may not go far enough for those who expect something truly groundbreaking but it is an album of sumptuous electronica, crammed with ideas and fuelled by a twitchy vigour. The care lavished on each and every individual sound is immediately evident – this is an album built for listening to on a decent set of headphones, its impressively layered blips and beats an absolute aural delight.
‘minipops 67 (source field mix)’ is a surprise opener if only for its sheer orthodoxy; this is James at his most accessible, far removed from some of his earlier more dissonant incarnations while ‘XMAS_EVET10 (thanaton3 mix)’ alternates between sparse chillwave and glitchy electro funk.
After the strident and somewhat quaint house beat of ‘180db_’ things start to get a whole lot more interesting – the second half of the album is more experimental, more edgy with ‘CIRCLONT6A (syrobonkus mix)’ heralding a series of tracks that may seem dense and impenetrable at first, but dazzle after repeated listens.

Tracks like the above and ‘syro u473t8+e (piezoluminescence mix)’ twist and turn, constantly changing shape, employing an impressive arsenal of ever changing blips and bleeps and weird and wonderful noises. There is a fidgety energy at work that suggests that James is already brainstorming the next idea long before he is done with the one at hand, a hyperactive creativity that never settles.
It remains to be seen whether Syro stands the test of time, whether the afterglow continues to burn brightly after the surge of hype and expectation dies away. But for now, the return of James as the restless creator of this unique music is a welcome one – Syro is the sound of a master craftsman at work.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)