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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Aphex Twin breaks new sonic ground on ‘Collapse EP’

Ruby Le | The Observer
Ruby Le | The Observer

Richard D. James is having a late-career renaissance. Early in his career, James pioneered an electronic sound that would dramatically influence the electronic dance music and intelligent dance music (dance music that transcended clubs) scenes for years to come. After taking a 13-year hiatus following his album “drukqs,” Aphex Twin has released new material that reflects significant amounts of evolution and maturity with respects to his early work, including the monumental “Selected Ambient Works 85-92.”

On “Collapse EP”, Aphex Twin creates soundscapes that often have a dynamic tension between chaos and order. On “T69 collapse,” the first third of the track centers upon irregular drum patterns that, although chaotic, have some underlying principles of order and rhythm. The second third of the track breaks down into an aggressive, horn-filled, chaotic soundscape that contrasts the relatively calm first third of the track. The visuals that were created to accompany this track match the balance between chaos and order that James creates sonically. The shifting landscapes in the visual are a perfect augmentation to the shifting and inconstant drum patterns that James uses on this track. The increases and decreases in violence on each respective third of the track are also represented in the visual, with the strobing landscape increasing as the second third of the track ensues.

“Collapse EP” is also filled with many haunting moments that result from ethereal soundscapes that James creates. On the track “abundance10edit[2 R8’s FZ20m & a 909],” the listener is confronted with a voice sample of the phrase, “Give me your hand, my friend / And I will lead you to a land of abundance, joy and happiness.” This sample, combined with the expansive synths and the ever-constant yet ever-changing drum patterns, creates a sound that is groundbreaking in terms of James’ career work.

On the track “MT1 t29r2,” the transitions between different sonic ideas are consistently smooth, and James again explores the pairing of expansive synths with unique and irregular drum patterns. In a similar way to “T69 collapse,” there are moments of calm amongst the chaos. At the 2:36 mark, the drum patterns reduce into a hi-hat exclusive state and eerie synths are played to emphasize the uncharacteristic deviation from chaos.

Overall, “Collapse EP” represents a venture in a new sonic direction at a career point that would relegate most other musicians to reliance on the sounds of old success. Richard D. James creates innovative soundscapes that add complexity to the IDM genre and his own catalog as a whole.

Artist: Aphex Twin

Album: “Collapse EP”

Label: Warp Records

Favorite Tracks: “T69 Collapse,” “abundance10edit[2 R8’s FZ20m & a 909],” “MT1 t29r2”

If you like: Autechre, Boards of Canada, Massive Attack

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5