APHEX TWIN: DRUKQS (2001)
1) Jynweythek; 2) Vordhosbn; 3) Kladfvgbung Micshk; 4) Omgyjya-Switch; 5) Strotha Tynhe; 6) Gwely Mernans; 7) Bbydhyonchord; 8) Cock/Ver-10; 9) Avril 14th; 10) Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michaels Mount; 11) Gwarek 2; 12) Orban Eq Trx 4; 13) Aussois; 14) Hy A Scullyas Lyf A Dhagrow; 15) Kesson Dalef; 16) Cymru Beats; 17) Btoum-Roumada; 18) Lornaderek; 19) QKthr; 20) Meltphace 6; 21) Bit 4; 22) Prep Gwarlek 36; 23) Father; 24) Taking Control; 25) Petiatil Cx Htdui; 26) Ruglen Holon; 27) Afx 237 V.7; 28) Ziggomatic; 29) Beskhu3epnm; 30) Nanou 2.
This goddamn thing is just too long, which is not so much a complaint as a lament: even if there are any bright new spots here that suffice to advance Richard D. James to the next level, three or four listens are not going to get you to follow him there. Really, for a guy much of whose reputation was based around short, up-to-the-point EPs and singles — such as, e. g., the famous 'Windowlicker' from 1999 — to throw out one hundred minutes of continuous electronic noise on the market sort of understates the meaning of «overkill».
There have been cautious, sceptical, and even overtly negative reviews of DrukQs, which is understandable since even serious admirers of Aphex Twin might not want to spend their time sorting the wheat out of the chaff; and since Aphex Twin is merely God in disguise, and His knowledge of the Universe does not go much further than a detailed understanding of superstring theory, which He invented, and the Big Bang, which He supervised — it is obvious that the 2 CDs of DrukQs are going to contain crappy filler, like it or not.
In all honesty, I would call this a «coasting» experience, and an intentional one at that; DrukQs is a big, sprawling summary of most, if not all, of James' interests in the world of sound. The tracks meticulously alternate between (a) techno / drum'n'bass dance numbers with psycho-futuristic melodic underbellies, along the lines of Ambient Works 85-92; (b) rhythm-less, minimalistic, mostly minor key piano or string compositions, along the lines of Ambient Works II; (c) stern industrial clots of noise, such as can be found on his mid-Nineties albums; (d) brief musical or non-musical jokes (e. g. a phone message from his parents congratulating him on his birthday). There is no «hard techno» à la 'Come To Daddy', and no orchestrated arrangements, but other than that, it is all fairly representative.
And fairly ehh: not a single track truly stands out. Despite all the superficial diversity, they blend into each other much like their unpronounceable, unmemorizable titles (which range from complete orthographic gibberish to long words or short phrases in Cornish, certainly undistinguishable from said gibberish for any layman without a Celtic fetish). The melody-carrying synths behind the frantic beats never burst into magic, and the beats themselves, in all honesty, are far less innovative and unusual than they used to be. It's all rather yawn-inducing even from the scientific point of view. Were elementary particles truly flashing around the way they are pictured in 'Taking Control', or geological fluctuations accompanied by the sounds of 'Gwely Mermans', natural science would be nothing but a chore.
It is not unimaginable, of course, that there is much subtle charm here that the critics missed for obvious reasons — such as its pretentious length and lack of transparently evident innovation — but, after all, it is just as easy to nosedive in electronic music as it is in, say, guitar-based music, and maybe even easier. Even when you have computers on your side to assist you with finding fresh types and combinations of sounds, your power is still limited; what is a computer, after all, but a bunch of alternating ones and zeros? And on DrukQs, these alternations simply happen to be more coarse-grained than elsewhere. Thumbs down.
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