Richard D. James returns with a new Aphex Twin album after 13 years. Boards of Canada ended an 8 year silence last year. Is Gas next?
What’s interesting to think about is that even though Aphex Twin is undeniably one of the most influential artists in the world of electronica, more teenagers who would claim to listen to “electronica” (or some variant thereof) would be more familiar with Skrillex than Aphex Twin. You have to wonder if these kind of things pass through the mind of James, and whether or not he really gives a damn one way or another.
Although Boards of Canada attempted to shake off the sands of time last year, Tomorrow’s Harvest wasn’t entirely successful in thrusting them into the limelight for people who weren’t already BoC fans. Will Syro meet the same fame? Possibly, though to no real fault of James, who has stuck to his guns by producing a modern take of his quintessential 90’s sound. Syro is arguably one of his more listenable albums, either going soft on the experimental edge of his earlier works or acknowledging that we’re now desensitized to them. In any case, James doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel here, and it comes across as refreshing. Some posited that this album was sure to be the atom bomb on genre warfare that independent music sorely needs now, but such endeavors are surely a young man’s game and James, now well into his forties, is likely just creating tunes that he would want to listen to. Besides, how many albums like Syro have you heard in recent years?
Syro is a bit of an oddity. It’s an album that many surely expected more of, but it succeeds precisely because it’s not. Hinted to be the start of a series of works from James, this may just be him wetting his toes into a bigger project, but it may also be a realization that times, and music, have changed. It’s a rather impossible demand to make of an artist to constantly be on the crest of new music, one that has buried more than a handful of amazing artists and completely neutered countless others, but it’s not crazy to expect that good musicians continue making good music. On that front, Syro succeeds with flying colors.
Those who may have still been wetting the bed when Drukqs came out in 2001 should listen up to this history lesson.