Admirers of Aphex Twin have had a 13 year sojourn waiting to see if Richard P. James would ever again release music under the storied moniker. Starting in September of last year a spate of Aphex Twin music was released. Syro marked the end of the sojourn and four short months later a second release Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt 2 EP has arrived. Along side the two recent releases an additional 112+ tracks have appeared on Sound Cloud and have been attributed to James. The tracks were traced back to James by following the various anonymous addresses to Aphex Twin’s Twitter account. Regardless, fans of Aphex Twin have gone from dearth to gluttony in a mere four months. Meanwhile James’ complex adventures in creatively releasing his tunes makes other artists look like they are working with crayons when attempting to keep up.
Some critics say Aphex Twin is one of the most inventive and influential figure in Contemporary Electronic Music. Detractors commonly say James is the master of the electronic glitch fart and has some rather serious spelling issues. When boiling off the hyperbole on both ends of the spectrum, the result is an artist with singular gifts. Few would quibble with the statement that his music is like no other. He is the ultimate contrarian who plays entirely by his own rules. He takes pride in not conforming to what many expect of him.
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Syro was a primer on James’ mastery of electronica in the 90’s. It was also a more open and welcoming reintroduction for the younger generation possibly unfamiliar with James’ mad and amazing skills evinced in prior works. Overall Syro was a critical and fan success. With the announcement of the release of Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt 2 EP most expected it to be leftovers from Syro, but instead the EP gives a glimpse at development of his music and what goes on behind the curtain. The construction of the songs is intriguing. On Computer Controlled ... it becomes a game of figuring out which instruments are making what sounds. There is also some similarity to Drukqs, the songs Penty Harmonium and Jynwythek Ylow spring to mind as you listen. Considering the prior releases, it would not be completely off base to look at Syro as the incongruent release on Aphex Twin’s discography; Computer Controlled ... is probably more of what fans would have expected as the next release after Drukqs.
Minimalist piano is the running thread throughout the tracks on Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2 EP. In some respects it is a quiet and peaceful record at its very center. The music on the release goes from electronica with a dash of funk, to beautiful ambient soundscapes that sometimes sound jarring but all fit together perfectly. There appear to be four main tracks that are fleshed out into what could be called a “song”. The other tracks seem to be variations and sample parts for those songs. Tracks like the Diskhat series have a smooth funk underlie, disjoined piano, and great drum loops. Other tracks build up the DISKPREPT series.
These have a more industrial feel with ticking drumbeats and turndown keyboards. Each of the tracks on the release creates an aural picture of texture and rhythm that in turn adds a piece to the overall sound mosaic. Piano Un10 it Happened is a stand out track with its shimmering piano, conveying an unprocessed and organic feel. The last track of the disk Hat5c0001 rec4 sounds like the final product of the first, third, sixth, seventh and eleventh tracks. But as with any Aphex recording I could be totally wrong. One of the beauties of Aphex Twin music is that it is up to the listener to draw the conclusions and connect the dots.
The entire release is a brief 28 minutes. Some tracks are sketches and others feel fully formed. There is no excess, it is a deliver and get out approach. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt 2 EP is a release that is probably better appreciated by long term fans. But it also serves to lure new found fans of Syro further into Aphex Twin’s world and creations. CCAI is evidence that Richard P. James is still aiming at the edges of the envelope.