Dec 31, 2014

Best electronic albums of 2014: one

 Syro  Aphex Twin (Warp)

The bulldozer of journalistic detritus that accompanied Aphex Twin's comeback album made listening to it something akin to pressing a portable radio to your ear while inside a car crusher. Great beats, you’d think, while bent gearsticks and battered pistons snapped your bones. I like the sounds, you’d mumble from inside your compressed cube of waste metal.

Comment pieces, inked hyperbole; so much noise online. It left me unable to think, unable to register its true significance. Of course I’ll make this the number one. It’s what should happen, right?

So I allowed space. I listened to a bit of Richard Clayderman instead. I listened to a smidgeon of Paolo Nutini. A snatch of One Direction.

Actually, this is all lies, but I did put the album aside so I could return to it fresh. And what an album. It’s beguiling, teasing, melodic and beautiful. It's the Aphex grin writ large, but without the nastiness: the cheeky shuffles in Minipops; the twisted g-funk of Circlont6a, the loose, knowing percussion of Produk 29, the optimistic ambience of Papat4. (Forgive the heavily-subbed track titles.)

His waspish processing may sound unsettled, and it’s certainly ordered into 32-bar sequences rather than traditional song structure, but the strength of Syro is in James’ pursuit of melody and then following that melody to captivating conclusions. S950tx16wasr10 is busy, but its notes are that of the first Selected Ambient Works. Circlont14 is all about the descending harmonies. Xmas_Evet10 made me so melancholic, I've burnt my Christmas decs along with my (non-existent!) Nutini CDs.

This isn't the product of a decade's silence: he's been sneaking these tracks into live sets for ages. In the simplest terms, Syro is very, very, [insert hyperbolic verbage and fire up the bulldozer] good.

Great beats. I like the sounds. Welcome back, Rich.

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