December 6, 2014
Review by Corey Galvin
Aphex Twin – Syro
I’ve would have never really called myself a fan of electronic music. It seemed to center around bass drops and repeating on itself to get people to dance too much, The genre as a whole seemed to be creative yet superficial. The only electronic-type artists I felt comfortable listening to was the likes of Radiohead, Daft Punk, and Moby. However, the past year, artists like Squarepusher, Four Tet, Danger Mouse, and Phantogram have came to my attention and showed the real side of the genre and that some artists cared musically.
Earlier this year, there was a lot of hype around a new album from Aphex Twin, also known as Richard D. James. James is known as one of the most-influential electronic artists of all-time. He hasn’t released an album in thirteen years but hasn’t had reason to. So when the news broke of his new release, Syro, the music community couldn’t have been happier. And let me tell you, at the end of listening to Syro, I couldn’t have been happier.
James doesn’t try to build on trends of recent electronic music or try to build his own in Syro. It’s just music that is his, straight from his mastery. There’s no bass drops, no samples, just his music and imagination.
Syro is strange. You get that feeling before you even listen to the music just by looking at the song names which are jumbled messes of computer code. You hear what you think is an alien language graze across the entire album and the sound effects at time make you feel uncomfortable. However, just minutes in you can tell that this music is more than just strange, it’s beautiful. James puts together some great compositions, two of them being the first two, “minipops 67 [120.2][sourcefield mix]” and “XMAS_EVET10  [thanaton3 mix].” These two introduce amazing beats and bass but also add a layer of color and deepness with the synthesizers, sparkling high bells, and soulful piano. I think I even heard bongos at one point. It sets up the mellow, alien feel that permeates throughout the rest of the album.
What also doesn’t stop throughout the album is the genius level beats produced. It’s amazing the originality and how well put together and tight they are. The beats build up on themselves and bounce off each other. Its nothing like any other artist before. At points it seems like James is just showing off and taunting us such as in “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” and “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix].”
We see how much of a skilled musician James is by the melodies he produces. Some are childish, innocent, harsh, spacey, or even helpless. One of my favorites is on “180db_ ” where is it sharp but apt and keeps the entire song moving. You can hear the influence he brought to the electronic community as it brings back flashes of Daft Punk’s Discovery album. The highlight of this album is “CIRCLONT6A [141.98][syrobonkus mix]” where the melody is like a video game and childish but slowly grows into a mature sound and flows well despite the large amount of staccato. “PAPAT4 [pineal mix]” also shares an amazing melody with its bright synths and jungle feel.
This album is more than just a showcase of James’ skill in producing electronic music and that becomes very apparent in the closer “aisatsana .” In it it is just a very soft recording of a slow piano melody that slowly progresses as birds chirp in the background. It reminds me of a kid learning how to play piano. This shows us how beautiful and warm James wants the music to be. At the end of this album, the listener will feel a strange soul, emotional, mystique coming out.
The lesson I learned here is that you don’t have to be afraid of electronic music even if you are a hardcore “it must be played to be music” type person. Richard D. James shows that beauty and mystique, like the sound that came from Led Zeppelin, can come out of electronic music. Syro is a playground for the ears and the mind that every music lover should take a listen to. It changed my perspective on the electronic music community and I hope it will too to you after a listen.