Review: Aphex Twin plays up his strengths on the hyperactive ‘Collapse’ EP
A new music video for the Aphex Twin single “T69 Collapse” would have made its television debut on Adult Swim earlier this summer. The video’s erratic CGI visuals, however, ended up failing the Harding test, and the network subsequently pulled it from the programming in order to protect those with photosensitive epilepsy.
In a similar vein, the music on Aphex Twin’s recently released “Collapse” EP is hyper stimulating. The pioneering electronic producer — also known as Richard D. James — takes hard left turns on this project, packing in a mind-altering amount of glitchy beats and eccentric soundscapes to create the type of dense music he has become known for.
It is a noticeable step away from the last proper Aphex Twin release, 2016’s “Cheetah” EP, which was slower in tempo and more minimal in its approach. On “Collapse,” James returns to jerking his listeners around a bit, with unexpected sonic shifts and hyperactive drum machines.
“T69 Collapse,” which serves as the EP’s intro track, features a beat that refuses to settle into anything close to predictable. The drum kit, seemingly fluid in tempo, mutates throughout the composition, held together solely through James’ idiosyncratic synthesizer.
James also lets in a subtle hip-hop influence on the track “1st 44” with an indiscernible vocal sample and some record scratching. Midway through the song, the music begins to work its way towards an ambient house feel, just before yanking the listener back into another rabbit hole with a heavy-handed record scratch, deep bass lines and some alien-like sirens.
The haunting “abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & A 909]” is more straightforward, but no less exciting. James takes advantage of some older hardware instruments — conveniently listed within the brackets of the excessively long track name — in order to create something that feels caught outside of time.
It’s easily the most danceable track on the EP, and things are only made better by its ghostly spoken-word sample: “Give me your hand, my friend, and I will lead you to the land of abundance, joy and happiness.”
“MT1 t29r2” also stands out for its effortless transitions between contrasting moods. It begins with a foreboding synth line but later shifts into a comforting yet upbeat passage that feels both lifelike and inquisitive.
This is no doubt electronic music and the production feels rigid where it’s supposed to be. But magically, James is able to inject all of his compositions with an explorative vigor.
It’s unusual that an artist would receive so much hype and attention around the release of a new EP, but Aphex Twin is no typical artist. Since the early 1990s, he has maintained a remarkably high standard of quality, which in turn has garnered him a significant fanbase.
One of the few negative things that could be said about “Collapse” is that it feels like more of the same. This is unmistakably an Aphex Twin project and it calls back to some of his aforementioned 1990s output. But when the music is this good, that’s hardly a complaint.
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