Aphex Twin – London 03.06.17 (Field Day) Album Review

A must for every AFX fan

WARP Records

 June 3, 2017

7.2

Richard D. James has never been a very sociable nor a talkative guy. Although he is probably one of the most influential musicians of the last 30 years, he has never been the kind of guy that you see walking down red carpets under the famished eyes of the photographers or continuously sharing slices of his private(?) life trough social media. During the 90’s he has indeed conceded a considerable number of interviews to music magazines and to networks especially after his live shows (the most famous of which is probably the MTV Party Zone in 1996), but after the release of drukQs in 2001 and the consequent 13 years-long rest he gave to the the Aphex Twin moniker, the ginger kid’s communication got definitely much more sporadic. Some magazines got to the point of saying that everything Aphex has ever said in interviews could be a lie (except for the tank, there are pictures of him next to it!) although it sure helped build the AFX lore.

Nonetheless, the lack of information on what Aphex Twin’s next move would be in music magazines and tv shows has never been a big deal for his followers. In fact, since 1994, when he encrypted the title of each track (except for “Blue Calx”) from his Selected Ambient Works Vol II, leaving to the listener the task to decipher them, with everyone of his releases, James has built a primary channel of communication with his fandom.

This peculiar way of dialoguing he has created in time (often setting the internet on fire) is unpredictable just as his music, atypical, sometimes subtle, like the one time he entitled Windowlicker’s last track “Mi−1 = −aΣn=1NDi[n] [Σj∈ℂ{i}Fij[n − 1] + [Fexti[[n−1]]” (commonly known as “[Equation]”) and hid the logarithmic spectrogram of his face in it, sometimes astonishing, like when he made a giant green blimp marked with his logo fly over London and used the deep web to promote the yet unannounced release of Syro. 

This is how Richard D. James really talks, and when he does so the world suddenly gets silent and listens. He might be talking to us just right now.

On the 3rd of June, at London’s Field Day Festival, just a bunch of hours before his live show a mysterious Aphex Twin record was sold for everyone present at the event. Obviously there were on a limited number of copies and it went sold out almost immediately. If you are interested in buying it though you can find it on Discogs for “just” 350$. However, this is not the first time AFX has sold unreleased material during of his live shows. The very same thing happened on the 17th of December 2016 in Houston for the Day For Night Festival, which was also the producer’s first U.S. live show in eight years, where an untitled, two-track 12” was sold at the merch table.

While the so called “Houston, TX 12.17.16” release consisted of two mixes of a claustrophobic gabber track called “no stillson 6 cirk”, the “London 03.06.17” record can count on eleven untitled tracks, with a much more various range of sounds and a much longer length. But what makes this EP even more interesting is the fact that the very same day of its release a mysterious countdown leading to the 6th of July appeared on Aphex Twin’s official website and, as always with Richard D. James, the internet has start digging for answers and interesting theories started to surface. As one that sees the “London 03.06.17” EP as a preview of a new LP surfaced on Reddit. Some say that the Field Day release itself might be officially released, but this option seems to be quite difficult since the catalogue number of the release is the one that WARP Records usually uses for its EPs and not Full Lenghts. This said there is a strong possibility that what’s going to come out on the 6th of July might be an EP of previously unreleased tracks, and for this particular reason somebody started to call the Field Day record  “Analogue Bubblebath vol. 7” as a continue of his famous 90’s Analogue Bubblebath series. There are also people who believe that the release has nothing to do with the countdown, and that on the 6th of July James will finally announce or release “Melodies From Mars”, an unmastered and unreleased Apehx Twin album composed around 1995 that surfaced on the internet and that James claimed to have redone in 2007 as stated in a 2010 interview for Another Man. All of this lead people to suppose that the “London 03.06.17” EP could already be Melodies From Mars itself. More realistic fans claim that all of this is just one big commercial move by AFX and that he is simply playing with his fandom that is always hungry for new releases and that would look anywhere for possible signs of it in whatever he does.

Whichever the case it would be a shame if this particular release ended up being something more than what it is. In fact, Despite its general high quality, the “London 03.06.17” EP is far from being one of James best works, even if it is definitely a must listen for every diehard AFX fan.

The first three tracks, known as “A1”, “A2” and “A3”, have a strong acid sound and strongly recall the Analord series and his Orphaned Deejay Selek (2006-2008) EP, all published under the AFX moniker. The fourth track, also played by James during his Field Day live set, instead, has a fresher sound and consists in slow, reverberated drum loops, while a choked synth tries to rise over them and an industrial drone progressively grazes the ear.

The track that concludes the first side of the record, “A5”, sets a completely different mood, with its shaded piano drowned in what might be a wood, or a natural scape, with the harmonious singing of birds in the background. The final result acts as a brief but perfectly fitting interlude between the two sides.

The B side hits the listener hard again: “B1”, played live at his Field Day show, ignites the ambiance with extremely abrasive textures continuously rampaging over hard drums which accents are all heavily delayed, together with a synth which sound definitely recalls the dissonant version of the one used in the Richard D. James Album. “B2” instead uses a linear and soft drum-line, but melts the ear with a dissonant synth and a drone that rumble perfectly together. Alongside with “A3”, these two tracks are probably the best of the entire release. “B3” mantains the aggressiveness of the two previous track, mixing a distorted synth with a more delicate one over a classic AFX beat and an acid house bassline. “B4” instead creates a much quieter atmosphere despite to its hammering drums thanks to a radically placid synth, resembling many of the works shared by AFX on Soundcloud under the user18081971 moniker.

The EP sure ends in a a weird way, with the crackling noises of “B5” suffocating a feeble synth and the following delayed synth of “B6” strangely resembling a voice, creating two different ambiences just to crush them.

Rhapsodically organized and shifting many different musical styles, the “London 03.06.17” EP is a good collation of tracks that probably belong to the past and that will be appreciated by everyone who misses the good old times, spaced out by some genuine new ideas that could hint the future of AFX’s sound. It is the perfect product to release at an event such as the Field Day Festival and get fans wondering what the will happen next in the Aphex Twin saga and catalyze attentions.

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