Artist: Aphex Twin
Album: Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt.2 EP
Record Label: Warp Records
Release Date: 26th January 2015
Richard D. James' latest experimentation engages some solid and well-worked ideas, but spends a lot of it's time feeling half-finished
There's an old idea that revolves and the music industry and music fans that once a band or artist gets to a certain stage in their career they can "do whatever they want". The most innovative artists, like Richard D. James for example, are able to attain that status sometimes after their first slew of releases. Whether under the guise of Aphex Twin or one of his various other outlets, James has been doing whatever he wants for the past 25 years, and it's mostly been completely solid too. These facts combined mean that a release as diasporic as "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt.2 EP" is pretty much acceptable in any environment, no matter its duration or impact.
With that in mind however, it's slightly easy to be cynical about "Computer Controlled...", especially in light of last year's excellent "Syro". Yes, he has every right to release something this lo-fi; it's not like it's totally vapid or poorly produced. There are some moments on here that show James' understanding of depth, texture and rhythm as well as ever. The problem is that these mostly feel like semi-forgotten half-cuts that he's had lying around for 20 years. You may argue in response that it's important to remember that those would be APHEX TWIN half-cuts, but unfortunately it's not quite enough in this case.
There's a consistently brooding and stripped back tone to this EP that leaves a distinctly dark flavour in the mouth. "Diskhat ALL preparedmix13" is lead by resounding, heavy handed piano keys and an increasingly powerful organic drum groove. It's sparse in terms of melody and replacing it are atmospheric fade-ins and weird squelches; it's more about rhythm than actual music. "Diskhat" rolls along on an unashamed drum shuffle that could have come straight from the B-side of a peak-era Will Smith single. "DISKPREPT4" is one of the highlights; it's layered as well as being subdued and grows distinctly with a definable melody but once again is much more about the instrumentation involved. A gorgeous double-bass melody and nervously odd piano tinker combine mid-way through for a wholesome effect.
Other highlights arrive later on in the shape of "disk prep calrec2 barn dance (s l o)"'s ritualistic, eccentric "Wicker Man"-esque waltz and penultimate track "Piano un10 it happened" is a gorgeous, summery piano melody, one of the few injections into the songs here. But more often than not there are songs with not enough meat on them here, or that feel half-finished. There are random 8 second drum fills and "0035 1-Audio", while possessing a cool rhythm, cuts out abruptly after 30 seconds mid-stride. "hat 2b 2012b"'s deep-seated tub- thumping, although short-lived, feels like it outstays its welcome.
It feels harsh to say that it's hard to see the point in "Computer Controlled...", because yes, James' artistic expression has always allowed him the space to do whatever he wants. It's just that there's not much in the way of substance here. As an Aphex Twin release, it's just disappointing that it's distinctly average.
Key tracks: "DISPREPT4", "Piano un10 it happened", "disk prep clarec2 barn dance (s l o)"
For fans of: Squarepusher, BADBADNOTGOOD