Album Review: Aphex Twin – Collapse

By Abby Jeffers, Contributor
[Warp; 2018]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]”, “1st 44”

After a two-year break following the release of his Cheetah EP, legendary electronic producer Richard D. James, also known as Aphex Twin, has made a strong return with another EP titled Collapse. It is more a return to the acid-inspired electronic music of his Drukqs days than it is a continuation of the slower ambience of Cheetah, but this rhythmic Jenga is what the DJ does best: stacking beats and synths until a single track is more intricate than seems possible. But on Collapse, the puzzle does not fall flat.

Read more: Album of the Week: yaeji – EP2

The EP opens with “T69 Collapse”, a boldly hyperactive meter with an ever-so-faint constant buzz of synth in the background. It is almost mind-numbingly intense, and each minute of the song, which clocks in at 5:22 and is the second-shortest on the record, brings a new, futuristic interjection of synth and other sounds.

The pulse of “1st 44” is not as anxiety-inducing, but it is no less complex. Bright bubbles of sound and gunfire drum machine beats mesh to create a pleasantly dark and dystopian track, and wailing siren sounds around the four-minute mark slash through the established layers, exposing neon swirls of color. James’s creativity with the ‘80s-sounding drum machine is impressive; he continues to find new and inventive ways to use it, even after over twenty years of making music.

Aspects of Aphex Twin’s long and varied discography are blended together in tracks like “MT1 t29r2” and “pthex”, as ambient backgrounds float just underneath harsh rhythms. At times, the two tracks have the soft atmosphere of Cheetah or Syro, but their production is more reminiscent of Drukqs. The former, however, feels almost tedious after the first two-thirds of the song; it seems mildly repetitive.

Collapse continues nonetheless, with “abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]” being lighter but still energetic, as several simple rhythms come together in a crisp club-ready mix. A few minutes in, sampled voice croons, “Give me your hand, my friend, and I will lead you to a land of abundance, joy and happiness,” just before delving into clear waves of synth and a newly distorted cadence. Finally, “pthex” closes out the EP with garbled, twisting synth and a stuttering beat that increases in tempo before dropping off abruptly into waves of ambience.

In 1991, RDJ co-founded Rephlex Records with Grant Wilson-Claridge, and the label coined the term “braindance” for its specific sub-genre of IDM, or Intelligent Dance Music. The music pulls heavy influence from acid techno music, with fervid, complicated beats that are nothing short of extravagant in their anti-minimalist production. With Collapse, 27 years later, Aphex Twin has returned to the braindance genre in a gloriously vivid EP that marks yet another chapter in his rich discography.

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