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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Aphex Twin: DrukQs


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.

Check "Drukqs" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Drukqs" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. You are starting to sound like you are writing for Pitchfork. But I don't blame you for that... no one can write a review on DrukQs without either

    (a) resorting to imageries/metaphors that don't say much but is at least interesting to read;

    (b) admitting that you cannot write a review on it, because you and RDJ are not working on the same page--him thinking he's making some innovative statement and you simply not understanding what the statement really is

    Anyway, DrukQs. I listened to it once, then it's forgotten until I read your review, which confirmed further that there is indeed no need for re-listening.

  2. Speaking of Aphex Twin, have you ever seen the video featuring one of their songs, called "Rubber Johnny?" It's a very...unique video, and the special effects team really did a spectacular job.

    Oh. But a word of warning: This video is really, REALLY fucked up.

  3. I admit bias, I am an Aphex fanatic.
    But I strongly disagree with a thumbs down.

    This is some of the most dense, creative, and innovative (electronic or otherwise) music ever recorded.

    I think the God comparison is apt, actually. The bar he sets is simply too high for most wannabes to even approach. Not that it is all for easy listening.

    Listen to any of the intense tracks, for example Ziggomatic (or Meltphase 6) continues to evolve the entire way though. Almost no beat is the same, no sound is the same. And it isn't simply random noise. It's pretty incredible.

    And, actually, all the programming virtuosity aside, he has an uncanny sense of a good beat. Sometimes he shifts from them too fast for most tastes or for some to even notice, but they're in there. The man has a gift.

    Also, there are plenty of other electronic artist who truly make "complicated" noise albums, that are really (IMO) almost unlistenable. Aphex is not one of them.

    And complaining of an Aphex album being to long is like complaining you are paid too much money!

    Happy listening.