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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