AFX: Chosen Lords
Aphex Twin’s first new material since 2001 is a series of eleven 12-inches released last year. (I reviewed volumes 03 and 04.) Now Rephlex is reissuing about a quarter of those tracks on CD. Richard D. James himself made the selections, and the result is a surprisingly cohesive album of retro electro, acid, and techno.
This nostalgic return to James’ roots reminds me of Luke Vibert’s YosepH, but of course the AFX sound is distinctive—I can recognize it a mile away. No one else programs so intricately with so much emotion and creativity. The first track, “Fenix Funk,” sounds like a love song to the past, with voices worked in everywhere. It starts with waves of echoeing chimes, hard bass synthesizer, and vocoder. Gradually plaintive notes build, their sound similar to James’ mid-nineties work. The middle of the track breaks down into classic analogue synths in an arrangement that reminds me of Baroque classical music.
My two favorite Analord tracks are on here: “Pitcard” and “Crying in Yur Face.” The former features a sea of reverberating piano pulses. Alive electronic voices emit a soaring melody, then there are several buildups of brutal squelches. On “Crying in Yur Face,” a barely undecipherable vocoder combines with 303 that will make you weep.
Most of the tracks are more subtle. “Cilonen,” for example, just hints at a melody, but offers speedy percussion and bleeps at its end. Another favorite is the dramatic “PWSteal.Ldpinch.D,” which is enigmatically named after a Trojan horse computer program. A downtempo beat and lush, pretty chords give this track a real eighties feel.
Freescha, Global Goon, and others are obviously inspired by the “AFX” side of Richard D. James’ personality, but James still does this style of music best. He has a voice that shines through all of his work, and when he’s on like this, it’s awe-inspiring.