December 2, 2018

Aphex Twin - Collapse EP Review

Aphex Twin - Collapse Review

Aphex Twin - Collapse EP Review

Few electronic musicians can make music sound so utterly alien and beautiful simultaneously. For this reason, and for the sheer complexity and magnitude of the electronic landscapes willed into sonic existence, this balance of contrast exhibited by an artist such as Aphex Twin simply has no equal. Aphex Twin is Richard D. James, a man who’s been embroiled in the creation of computer music since the early 1980’s. His music often falls into one of two categories: pretty melodic ambience, or abrasive aural assault, and sometimes a combination of the two. After James’s more than decade-long hiatus as Aphex Twin, his reemergence with 2014’s Syro, a collection of some of his best work produced during this period, earned him his first Grammy award for best electronic/dance album. Since his revival, Aphex Twin has arguably released some of his most exciting music after decades of growth, to be experienced and discovered by new generations. James followed up Syro with his 2016 EP, Cheetah, which featured tracks using the rare, eponymous synthesizer and contained some of his most accessible, beat-driven work. His music and energy continues to morph on his 2018 EP, Collapse.

Each track has a distinct beating heart, sometimes of machine and other times of an organism that sounds almost alien, but the frenetic tempos and rhythms all create a highly atmospheric and living headspace throughout Collapse. The opener, "T69 Collapse", features beautiful bass and melodies with coinciding, highly energized percussive hits, only to be eventually pulled apart and dissolute into a computerized breakdown, falling and collapsing, giving newfound meaning to the EP's title and artwork. But in the ashes, it builds into a bountifully pretty release of tension, blissful and beating with endless energy. Thus is the formula of James's most recent EP: a meditation of electronic noise vs. beauty.

The second track, "1st 44", has extremely syncopated and delayed percussion and synths, finding multiple pockets of catchy beats for listeners to settle in to, without ever feeling too stuck. Such is the style of Aphex Twin's masterfully woven IDM, or intelligent dance music; some of his songs never stay put, and constantly evolve into new iterations of where James's mind was taking him during the creative process. This constant change in some of his tracks creates a multiple replay value which most artists couldn't replicate in their wildest dreams. Over time, his delicately layered songs slowly reveal themselves to listeners.

"abundance10edit[2 R8's,FZ20m & a 909]" uses a vocal sample of a girl speaking to the listener, "Give me you hand, my friend, and I will lead you to a land full of abundance, joy and happiness". As Aphex Twin gives listeners human voices in his music, and in essence humanizes his music, it invites us to the land and inner space that he inhabits, and the beautifully subdued synths of James's track creates a headspace that is a land all his own. The woman invites us once again towards the end of the track, and the fantasia of synths coalesce and come together into a marriage of James's electronic bliss and percussive rhythms.

Overall, Aphex Twin's Collapse EP hits all the right notes. In terms of whether we're getting a release of heavy and heady electronic beats, or chill, melodic synthesizers, the answer lies in a combination of both, which is the best way fans and newcomers alike can get their most recent serving of Richard D. James's music. The prolific release history of James's music and the past four years since his reemergence has proven that he is one of the largest, most monolithic forces in electronic music to this day, and will be around for many years to come. To any fans and new listeners, this EP, and his most recent album, Syro, are a must listen.

Collapse EP - 9.75/10

Recommended Tracks: T69 Collapse, 1st 44, abundance10edit[2 R8's, FZ20m & A 909]