Although Richard D. James was firmly back in the headlights in 2014, it’s fair to say his influence never really went away. Ever since the Cornwall born gear head and veritable musical maverick released 'Selected Ambient Works 85-92' 22 years ago, it has been the bench-mark against which all ensuing ambient and electronic albums have been compared. Truth is, few stood up to the challenge, because there is something otherworldly about the music of Aphex Twin that is impossible to ape, whether it's rave bangers, techno stompers, blissed-out ambient soundscapes or darn right freaky sound design. A full 13 years after his last album, 'Drukqs', that still proved to be the case with 'Syro', his Grammy nominated fifth album on Warp Records, and one that again confirmed him to be from a different dimension than the rest of us.
The album itself was preceded by some of the greatest hubbub the dance world has since since the last Daft Punk album: blimps were seen flying over London sporting the famous Aphex Twin logo, then James’ own Twitter account posted a link to the deep web that had fan boys fawning immediately. For those who could decode it, a tracklist and album title were the reward, before Warp finally sent out a press release that was garbled, perplexing and totally in line with the non-standard way in which James has always operated. Eventually, the album landed proper and fans old and new came together in praise of its 12 mystifying tracks. From UK rave to classical music, jazz to prog rock, drum & bass to techno, James’ magpie approach to music shone through once again and the album stood out in a class of one, totally unrelated to the zeitgeist but all the more exhilarating for it.
Despite having such a rich discography, despite the mythological legend of Aphex himself being even more overblown than ever, and even if he does have “some electro-mechanical robots” in one of his home studios, 'Syro' still managed to live up to the hype. With more music reportedly on the way simply because he feels “the time is right”, never was there a better time to celebrate the life and times of Richard D. James.
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