“Syro”, disappointingly safe new album from the Aphex Twin.

Aphex Twin's "Syro".

Aphex Twin’s “Syro”.

Syro is the much awaited new album from the Aphex Twin, and the first official release from Richard D. James in 13 years. James is to electronica what Martin Luther King is to the civil rights movement. His is the name that shall not be taken in vain.

And sure enough, the music press fell over itself in its determination to welcome it accordingly. The boys from Pitchfork gave it an 8.7 here. And the doggedly positive review that Sasha Frere-Jones gave it in the New Yorker here ended with,

“Syro” is Aphex Twin saying, “Yes, that was me,” rather than “Here is the new frontier.”

But being asked to listen to an Aphex Twin album devoid of the new is like being invited to listen to a Simon and Garfunkel album denuded of harmonies. New is what he does.

Richard D. James in, perhaps, slightly less happier times...

Richard D. James in, perhaps, slightly less happier times…

I suppose it’s inevitable that a music so inexorably linked to the technology that produces it is destined to become redundant in the blink of an eye. What would you think about being offered a brand new ten year old mobile phone? Nonetheless, it’s impossible not to feel monumentally underwhelmed by an album that sounds and feels so safe. And conventional.

When it comes to the act of creation, emotional depth and peace of mind are inversely related and can be mapped mathematically. Art is the product of pain. So one can only hope that James is as happy and contented as this album suggests. There’s nothing wrong I suppose in producing a new album of greatest hits. But if this is your introduction to the Aphex Twin, you should probably start off with 26 Mixes for Cash from 2003.

In the meantime, here’s something to put hairs on your chest. It’s the video for the title track to the 1997 ep Come to Daddy, directed by Chris Cunningham. And here’s a track from his new album Syro.

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