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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aphex Twin: Chosen Lords


1) Fenix Funk 5; 2) Reunion 2; 3) Pitcard; 4) Crying In Your Face; 5) Klopjob; 6) Boxing Day; 7) Batline Acid; 8) Cilonen; 9) PWSteal.Ldpinch.D; 10) XMD 5a.

In 2005, Richard D. Twin continued his unpredictability spree by releasing, under his alternate moniker of AFX, a series of eleven vi­nyl-only EPs that he called Analord and numbered almost in successive order: first came No. 10, then Nos. 1 through 11. (Don't ask me what particular brand of algebra this represents). Those of us who are of the more common stock and do not bother so much about the vinyl vs. CD contro­versy, right down to not even owning a turntable any longer, may only enjoy the results through illegal (and, in the eyes of the Twin, most probably distasteful) digital rips — or through this par­ticular compilation from 2006, which did get a CD release and, supposedly, was almost forced on the man by his management.

The latter — the fact that Chosen Lords were a half-hearted release — means that there is no guarantee that you really get the best stuff. Knowing the evil mind of «Daddy Windowlicker», you might, in fact, get the worst, and may that be a punishment to you for disrespecting the power of vinyl and the holy obsession of the completist. (At least, that is exactly what most of the completists say — unless they are simply pissed off that it was them and not you spending all that time and money on scooping up the entire series). But with this kind of music, it is not easy dis­tinguishing between best and worst in the first place. And there is certainly very little sense to re­viewing all of the series and trying to find significant progressive difference between Analord 5 and Analord 11. For our purposes, Chosen Lords will do fine.

There is a retro scent to this music — naturally, since, true to its name, the Analord series made significant use of old analog equipment, although computer equipment was also present. Some have called it a conscious return to the good old days of «acid techno» and drew analogies with Ambient Works 85-92. Others, conversely, highlighted its innovative qualities (merging the old ways with new creative approaches etc.). Both parties are probably right. However, in my own eyes, this does not make Analord any less of a «coasting» experience than DrukQs, no matter how different the technologies involved in their preparation.

The overall sound is simply too dry and shallow. The best of Ambient Works were impressive sonic vortices, spurring on all of those cellular / atomic level analogies and making the listener want to reach within oneself and find echoes of these strange sounds in his/her own blood. On Analord, or, at least, on these particular selections, James mostly sticks to complex, but un-moo­dy robotic patterns that took much work to create, but not a lot of inspiration, I believe. For all of the innovation, I cannot hear any new types of sonic sensations that had not been discovered be­fore, and none of the tracks are sharp, rough, or aggressive enough to attract extra interest. Worst of all, way too often I catch myself understanding that this is hardly distinguishable from back­ground Web muzak or arcade shooter accompaniment ('Fenix Funk 5' might have been terrific in «Mario Bros. In Outer Space», but hardly anywhere else).

In such a situation, the most effective tracks are those where, at least, you have a lot of things happening, so it may not mean much, but it keeps you too occupied to be bored. Which means that the winner by far is 'XMD 5a' (perhaps not coincidentally, one of the two tracks on here ac­tually credited to «Aphex Twin» rather than the non-aphex evil twin «AFX»), a real oddball com­position that begins with rhythmically tolling bells, continues as a little convoluted acid dance track dubbed over an ambient-minimalist piano track, grows into a percussion-heavy funk num­ber, dissolves in the ambience of the piano, comes back in a poisonous pool of Moog-ish atmos­pherics, and finally bursts in an evil biley bubble. Nothing sensational, but still — a sonic adven­ture that contrasts rather sharply with the comparatively static nature of most other tracks.

The bottomline is, in the hands of a beginner this kind of stuff would command reverence, but for James, this is starting to raise the question of whether his explorations had really reached the end of the map by the year 2000. The fact that some people actually paid attention to — and almost applauded — the fact that 'PWSteal.Ldpinch.D' introduces a regular 4/4 beat, might somehow hint at the possibility that things are coming back full circle. Who knows, maybe ten years from now the Twin will be gracing us with digital deconstructions of Sinatra standards. For now, my review should serve as a cautious warning: there is no big reason to hear this stuff unless you are already a vintage Aphex nut. At least — repeat repeat — I see nothing here that makes it any better than DrukQs.

Check "Chosen Lords" (CD) on Amazon

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