Aphex Twin: Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2. (Warp Records)
12″ / CD / DL
Aphex Twin scored an impressive no. 13 slot in our albums of the year list last year. Not a bad achievement considering how long it had been since we’d last had any new music by him. He’s clearly on a roll now though as he’s already followed Syro up with a new EP, one which dropped last week and which Simon Tucker reviews for us here.
Last year saw the return of Richard James aka Aphex Twin with Syro (our review), his first full-length album release under this moniker in thirteen years. Syro was a crisp, clean, and very accessible album that garnered much praise, but also created a want in his many fans for the more experimental side of his music and with the release of Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 (there’s no part 1 in case you felt like looking) a 13 track EP, many of those wishes have been granted.
Computer Controlled.. sees James step outside of the more digital and synthetic sounds of Syro and introduces us to a more seedy, murkier world where the waters are muddied and a tension lies thick in the air. Throughout the EP piano’s cascade and ripple over each other as (live sounding) drums swing and snap.
Tracks like opener diskhart ALL prepared1mixed 13 and diskhat 1 use piano as a tool for menace and melody whilst the drums hit hard on a groove that swings like great jazz and rolls like memorable hip-hop. It is these two aforementioned genres that lie at the heart of the EP, merging to create a world of smoke-filled pubs, litter strewn streets and corrupt law enforcement. A noir trip full of reefer madness and casual violence.
As in all stories of this nature there needs to be some light to go with the shade and these can be found with the brief, soulful piano un1 arpej and the achingly beautiful piano un10 it happened which really displays James’ innate gift with melody.
For all of its display of a fondness of American culture, Computer Controlled also has a deep European current running through it with disk prep calrec2 barn dance (slo) playing like a COUM Transmission, all prison march pace and random percussive instrumentation.
Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt.2 EP feels like it was all put together during the same sessions, carrying a distinct narrative throughout making for a compelling and sometimes unsettling listen. The live feel of it (so live in fact you can hear a child, presumably James’ own, talking in the background on DISKPREPT1) acts as a perfect counterpoint to Syro’s crispness. It’s music that you could fully visualise a band playing on stage.
Another welcome and thought provoking addition to the Aphex Twin oeuvre, James has (once again) sidestepped preconceived notions of where he will be leading us next and is continuing on his most singular of paths.
You can find Apex Twin on twitter as @AphexTwin.
All words by Simon Tucker. More writing by Simon on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.