Aphex Twin ‘Syro’ Review: Richard D. James tones down the weird, but remains sonically inventive.
If there was ever a genre that needs a good kick in the ass, its EDM, which often sounds as dull and effortless as its construction. Predictable, rote and irritating, it shows just how far electronic music has fallen since the early days of House, Techno/Electronica, or whatever you want to call it.
So thank god Aphex Twin is back to show the kids how it’s done. After a long break from the spotlight (his last proper album being 2002’s ‘Drukqs’), the great electronic music oddball (aka Richard D. James) has returned with Syro, an album that exists in a landscape singular unto itself, content to mock the pretenders and ripoffs (Kanye West, take note).
But while it occupies the rich, alien textures that have created such cult appeal, it is certainly James’s most accessible offering. Still weird, but more accommodating to those unfamiliar with James’ sonic wizardry.
Take minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix], a sprightly mix of gurgling synths, skittering percussion and drunk auto-tune vocals. Or the laid back tropical funk of produk 29 . It’s as welcome as a stiff cocktail on a summer’s day.
This may grate on this who enjoyed Aphex Twin at his most unhinged. There’s nothing as deranged as Come To Daddy, Windowlicker or as sonically searing as Ventolin. But the deeper the album goes, the more eccentric the material: 180db_  sounds like a descent down a rabbit hole of fun house mirrors, resulting in a carousel of hypnotic textures..
The rubber band, super-articulated funk of syro u473t8+e [141.98] [piezoluminescence mix] operates on an insectoid frequency that only the most limber and quirky could dance to, and PAPAT4  [pineal mix] hints at the manic jungle percussion of James’ self-titled album, even if it doesn’t incur the same sonic whiplash.
In many ways Syro flows seamlessly, a slowly escalating and reconfiguring collage of sounds that offer the ear a more layered listening experience with repeated listens.
And for those longing for the soothing textures that James has rarely touched since his 1994 Selected Ambient Works Vol II masterpiece, there’s aisatsana , a serene piano performance that would please ambient godfather Brian Eno. One can only surmise if James is having a laugh with this more obvious composition, which is his least adorned, most on-the-nose track to date, but when it sounds this pretty who cares?
James has made it clear he’s here to stay, and has more material in the pipeline. Will he go full Aphex, making the next great weirdo sounds that will confuse and irritate as much as they delight? Or will he remain a subdued elder statesmen more satisfied with music that requires less patience for the listener? One can only guess, but either way, odds are good it will sound badass regardless.
Want to own ‘Syro’ on iTunes or Amazon? Click on the proper links below.
[amazon_image id=”B00M4CAAIE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Syro (Vinyl)[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B00M4CAB2O” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Syro[/amazon_image]