In early September, Richard James, aka Aphex Twin, teased his eager fan base with the release of his new album’s first track, “minipops 67 [120.2].” The song’s resonant kick-drum harmony reminded me of Moderat’s crowd-pleasing 2009 single, “Rusty Nails,” which lead me to believe that Syro was going to be James’ attempt to cater his distinctive sound towards the clubbing demographic. While the album does have its dance oriented moments, my original prediction proved to be shortsighted—as the album’s melodies become progressively stranger and often creepier as it unfolds.
The album is by no means alienating, as James maintains an energy throughout it—which, albeit eclectic, is honest and visceral. Moments of certain songs are evocative of other artists and even classifiable, such as the Daft Punk-esque robotic funk groove in “XMAS_EVET10.”
Viewed as composite structures, the tracks cannot be justifiably classified. It is almost as if James employed an orchestra of laptops to create the album, each programmed with its own unique and foreign sound, and each directed by his figurative baton to enter the music at unpredictable, whimsical moments. If music exists on another planet or dimension, I believe that Syro is a near perfect representation of how that music might sound.
Nevertheless, as left field as Aphex Twin takes the listener on Syro, intrinsically, the album is a convincing, original expression of James’ peerless musical genius. With James’ previous release of Druqks in 2001, the 13-year wait for Syro was well worth it.