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I Care Because You Do

Aphex Twin

1995

This album is probably a tad better than RDJA, mainly because it's not as spastic, the beats are more my style (down/mid-tempo) and it is generally less challenging of a listening experience.  Not to mention the latter 3rd of the album has some of my favorite songs from AT.  The overall mood is a bit more brooding and less playful than RDJA, which gives it a somewhat darker atmosphere.  It has the same dreamlike/numbing quality of RDJA, but ICBYD seems more cohesive overall.  Less detours/variety, and generally the same sound/mood throughout.  It's the bridge between his pure ambient albums and the more jungle-influenced RDJA...I give this one the slight nod, but both of those albums offer me a very personally unique listening experience.  This is the type of music you listen to if you were somehow displaced on a spaceship 10 Billion light-years from Earth at the edge of time and space...ICBYD transcends existential bliss at times, and that's really saying something.

8.6

Richard D. James Album

Aphex Twin

1996

This album evokes a certain numbing, daydream-like feeling that is unique among all other albums I've ever listened to.  It's abstract techno/electronica mental wallpaper music, at once friendly, comforting, unsettling, blissful and often times lonely.  There's a piece of my brain that identifies strongly with the abstract mood of the music, as I have always found it engaging, and feel like I'm being transported into another world or another state of being when I hear it.  This album is generally more up-tempo and spastic compared to ICBYD, but it's also got more variety and is a bit stranger, a bit more experimental in nature...perhaps more cerebral...although some of the tracks are somewhat annoying/hyper, overall RDJA is one of my favorite abstract albums.  Challenging, no doubt, but it's my "comfortably numb" album.

8.6

Drukqs

Aphex Twin

2001

While not quite as good as the two classic albums that proceeded it (I Care Because You Do and Richard D. James Album) Drukqs proves to be no slouch itself.  In fact, the sprawling double-album features several compelling pieces that rank right up there with the very best Aphex Twin songs.  The only real fault with Drukqs is it's running time, and the inevitable hodge-podge nature that goes along with most all double albums.  Being that the very nature of Aphex Twin's music is so cerebral and abstract, it kind of makes listening to Drukqs straight through in one sitting more of a chore than it should be.  But that's also the beauty of Aphex Twin, you can really lose all concept of time and space listening to stuff like this, and therein lies the appeal.  Overall, a very good, albeit a bit bloated, double-album from AT.

8.0

Syro

The words "Aphex Twin Syro" written in uppercase black monospace text inside a lime green circle.

Aphex Twin

2014

Aphex Twin's first album in over 12 years is something to get excited about.  AT's music always had a certain numbing, transcendent, yet challenging quality to it for me.  It's almost anti-music, and for that reason I've always been drawn to it.  It's art, and I've always been a fan of instrumental and ambient music, and AT are the best representation of that style to me in it's most engaging form (with apologies to Eno).  Listening to Syro is kind of like reacquainting yourself with a hidden part of your psyche, a part of your mind that only AT can truly tap into and understand.  It evokes a strong sense of wonder and grandeur, and I always find myself thinking about nerdy concepts like multi-verses, singularities, consciousness, and the profound emptiness and vastness of our universe.  But on Syro, only a handful of songs do that.  The other half of the songs are not particularly special/engaging, but haven said that, Syro does manage to have it's own fairly distinct identity/vibe to it.  Unfortunately, it doesn't have the density/beats of "I Care Because You Do" the personality of "Richard James Album" or the atmosphere of "Druqks".  It's a pretty good album, but after repeated listens, it doesn't quite live up to it's predecessors unfortunately.  Overall, a nice addition to the catalog nonetheless.

7.9

Cheetah (EP)

Aphex Twin

2016

Although this is only a 7 song EP that lasts slightly under 34 minutes total, it's definitely a case of quality over quantity on Aphex Twin's new album Cheetah.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is arguably the smoothest, most listenable set of tracks Mr. James has cooked up since 1995's classic I Care Because You Do album.  The two albums have a similar tone, as they are both primarily beat-driven affairs (of the down/mid-tempo variety) and are generally subdued in nature.  The Cheetah EP is basically one long head-bobbing session, with booming, generally chilled-out beats along with all the usual dreamy electronic flourishes that give these tunes that distinct Aphex Twin vibe.  That said, there's nothing particularly arrhythmic or spastic to be found here (which is nice for me) but there's also nothing particularly trippy or unsettling about the music as well.  And although that playful/experimental vibe is somewhat missed, this is an album you can groove and chill to without it being too abstract or challenging.  In fact, it's downright melodic at times.

I can see how some AT fans would find this album a little too "one-note" or maybe even boring to a degree, but for yours truly, I find it's smoothness and chilled-out/head-bobbing beats to be refreshing and highly listenable.  That unique feeling of existential bliss that only Aphex Twin can provide is also present here, which makes sense considering that feeling always resonated with me most on their more melodic/mid-tempo numbers.

Overall, this is Aphex Twin's most economical and smooth album.  "Economical" and "smooth" may not be compelling or typical descriptions for an Aphex Twin album, but for me, they're meant as compliments.  I dig it.

8.1 

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