One consequence of the ascent of the information superhighway is that the ideal music review is no longer the best one but simply the first. With that in mind, what I’ve done may not be entirely legal but it at least means that SPINAL BAP has successfully bagged THE VERY FIRST REVIEW OF SYRO BY THE APHEX TWIN. Security around this release is tighter than Barry Hogan’s purse strings after a festival cancellation so how did I, a lowly hack with just 300 Twitter followers and a Tesco pay-as-you-go SIM card, snatch this exclusive scoop? Naturally, I broke into the roof of Warp Records’ headquarters in the dead of night, lowering myself down from the ceiling like a taller, prettier and less theologically misguided Tom Cruise. I tip-toed over and limboed under countless high-tech laser censors. I pacified the slavering guard dogs by feeding them Aldi bratwurst and swapping Battles for Eno on the office stereo. Searching high and low, I rifled through thousands of abstract artwork posters. I rummaged around in a gigantic pile of unsold Maximo Park CDs. Eventually, there it lay, concealed under sheets and sheets of sexually-explicit doodles scribbled by TV’s Christopher Morris. Yes, Warp Boss Steve Beckett’s personal laptop! I tried several passwords. “Gonjasufi”. “Nightmaresonwax”. “LFOremix”. After just a few hours I cracked it: “SonDEremawe”. Simple as that! I searched for SYRO, downloaded the files to my iPod, and got out of there quicker than you can say “Petiatil Cx Htdui”. So after great personal risk, may I present to you, dear readers, ahead of this weekend’s listening parties, the very first, track-by-track review of Aphex Twin’s long-awaited new album:
01. minipops 67 (source field mix)
An understated opener. There are no drumbeats. No synths. No samples. It’s basically just a 4-track recording of Richard James plucking the same ukulele note over and over again while an anonymous assistant rubs sandpaper across his greying beard. Existentially haunting.
02. XMAS_EVET10 (thanaton3 mix)
Here we go, SYRO’s first proper banger! It’s like a ‘Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michaels Mount’ for the nihilistically apathetic post-Only God Forgives cultural milieu. Imagine taking drum & bass, halving it, multiplying it by Flying Lotus, and then adding three-fifths of an ex-Napalm Death member who now dabbles in techno. The track’s only drawback is the gobbledegook chorus sung by Charli XCX wearing black lipstick and torn Topshop fishnets.
03. produk 29
A bit like trying to destroy an early twentieth-century washboard using only your teeth and one pipette-drop of hydrochloric acid. Best on headphones. Unless you’ve got shit headphones, of course.
04. 4 bit 9d api+e+6
A radical departure for the ‘Twin. This is a jaunty brass-backed summertime ditty that nods to likes of Mumford & Sons, Jake Bugg, Elbow, Bon Iver, and Fatman Scoop’s early material. ‘4 bit 9d api+e+6’ could’ve been Aphex’s biggest crossover hit to date, had the repeated vocal samples not been quite so openly anti-Quaker.
An ear-shatteringly abrasive pastiche of hyperspeed quasi-gonzo hedgerow funk. Comes with a free sticker-book and set of six mauve pencils.
06. CIRCLONT6A (syrobonkus mix)
This one is kinda like waking up in an abandoned laboratory to find you’re the middle section of a human centipede with Wolfgang Voigt sewed to your arsehole and Kevin Drumm up the front. It turns out that William Bennett off of Cut Hands is the mad scientist behind this spliced atrocity and he keeps feeding Drumm with Jamie Oliver’s peppered courgette fritters while screaming, “I’m not a bloody racist, all right?!!!”
07. fz pseudotimestretch+e+3
You know that second track on Autechre’s third EP? The one you pretended to like as a student? This is basically its sequel, with a more foreboding subtext of strained aquatic grief. Oh, and there’s a pretty nifty Rubiks solo to boot.
08. CIRCLONT14 (shrymoming mix)
If you enjoy the sensation of having your ears coated in custard skin while Squarepusher milks an albino platypus with a faulty purple dustbuster, then this is the twelve-minute Bhangra symphony for you!
09. Informer (Radio Mix)
A surprisingly faithful rendition of Canadian reggae star Snow’s 1992 chart smash.
10. PAPAT4 (pineal mix)
An unlistenable cacophonic fusion of glo-fi synths, jungle beats, Afro-Luxembourgian timpani, 2-step sellotapewave, harsh Seoul-soul, bubblegum krunk, post-Calpol don’t-wop, emo fingerjazz, lowercase lounging thug-bop, Mafiosi minibilly, disembodied voices that sound like floating Cornish satsumas, and a sample of something you heard while browsing the chinos section of Urban Outfitters. Skippable filler.
11. s950tx16wasr10 (earth portal mix)
Harks back to Selected Ambient Works Volume II, if you were to replace the words “Ambient Works Volume” with “Out Of Hell” and “Selected” with “Bat”. Now older and fatter, Richard James embraces operatic soft rock, singing about Harley Davidsons, dashboards, fast women, Frankensteins and lemons. Doesn’t really work in context with the rest of the album.
Originally titled ‘stsn’ in tribute to Bobby Gillespie who once took so much Sudafed that he thought the vowels were going to crawl off the front of an album cover and eat his top two layers of skin, a trauma which inspired the cautiously-named XTRMNTR by ‘PRML SCRM’. However, James reinstalled his vowels after realising that ‘stsn’ was an utterly unpronounceable and frankly silly title for an Aphex Twin song. A poignant closer, full to the brim with jangling ketchup clicks and swelling humpback Klimt-core viola. Leaves you thinking, “yeah, that’ll do, see you in another thirteen years, mate.”