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BUY IT THIS FORTNIGHT
RECORDS APHEX TWIN Drukqs (Warp) .0000
It’s always going to be hard to divine the true intentions of Mr Richard D. James. A young boffin who has been making music on home- made synthesisers since the age of fourteen, he is also capable of making music so heart- rendingly beautiful it hurts. This is also a man who DJs apparently just to piss people off, playing hardcore gabba at raves so he can laugh as the ecstacy-users try to dance to it. He praises his labelmates on Warp in the UK, but then states to journalists abroad that he released this double album so he can leave the label.
If Drukqs really is a contractual obligation (and you can never be sure of anything with Aphex Twin) then it has to be one of the best contractual obligations ever made. Not a massive claim for a record perhaps, but typical of the apparent ease with which Aphex Twin can outstrip his competitors
This 30-track monster, after all, is the most varied, complex and downright sophisticated of James’ massive output to date. The very fact that some tracks have been kicking around on James’ hard drive for nigh on seven years, while others are virtually brand new means that it’s pretty much impossible to trace any sense of linearity or progression. Tracks here could even pre-date material from his last work, 1997’s Richard D. James album.
A few things, though, are obvious. Aphex Twin is clearly fascinated by the recent history of breakbeat culture, from jungle to two-step. He may avoid the clear homages/rip-offs of UK garage that Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher is so keen on, but Drukqs contains some of Aphex Twin’s best dance music. ‘Vordhosbn’ and the ‘Stakker Humanoid’ sampling ‘54 Cymru’ may have that familiar Aphex skitter to them but not only could you (shock, horror) dance to them, you actually want to. On ‘Taking Control’ however, James takes the garage pattern and renders it as horrifying as one of his hideous Photoshopped portraits.
What is different from every other Aphex Twin album though is Drukqs’ consistent leap between polarities. The melancholic beauty of
both volumes of Selected Ambient Works may have been interspersed with the odd impenetrable growler and the completely obscure Classics may have been lit by the odd ray of sunshine, but Drukqs oscillates between extremes all the way through. It’s not as if the Twin is anymore mental than usual on ‘Mt Saint Michel And St Michaels Mount’, it’s just that he precedes it with the beautiful piano nocturne of ‘Avril 14’. There is also more than one harpsichord piece littered among the soft- toned industrial electronica and the rarer, more conventional pieces such as ‘bit 4’.
This perhaps is the one characteristic of Drukqs you can be absolutely sure of. James is trying to stay one step in front of the pack. Every electronic act has raided his wardrobe after all: Radiohead have dipped their paintbrushes into his sonic palette for Kid A and Amnesiac while Madonna has even been on the phone trying to get him to remix her (he came up with a list of
He takes the garage pattern and renders it as horrifying as one of his Photoshopped portraits
animal impressions he wanted her to do but then decided he didn’t like her vampyric attitude to his music anyway). His refusal to release his most innovative work for fear of being ripped off again may sound like the act of a paranoid delusional, but Drukqs still puts him way
ahead. (Tim Abrahams)
0.... Excellent 0... Recommended .0. Good
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