Aphex Twin: Collapse EP (12″, Warp, September 2018)

First impressions can be deceiving. Having been underwhelmed Aphex’s two releases in 2015 and, I’ll admit, having largely forgotten about the 2016 one, I was prepared to be hurt again with this. And the first two minutes of the lead track, T69 Collapse, seemed to confirm my fears: it’s kind of a skittering drill’n’bass number with a bit of an acid bassline and it’s nice enough but it’s all a bit polite in this day and age (this sound is, by my estimate, about 23 years old now). Then  suddenly it all, well, collapses, into a much more intense pummelling of drums and wailing of synths. The final third reverts to the more polite mode, but suddenly there’s more going on and everything is far more interesting. And the next four tracks are also varied and complex and really pretty good. 1st 44 has some nice sparse moments with almost a dancehall sound, complete with distorted toasting. MT1 t29r9 has some of the most dancy moments, but also some of the floatiest. abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909] has sounds that reach back into the early-90s ambient techno days, complete with sci-fi-ish vocal samples, although some of the beats are more breaksy. And pthex is a good example of Analord-era woozy breakbeat acid. On the whole… sure, he’s not breaking much new ground here, but this has to be his strongest release since 2014’s Syro, and a nice reminder of why we love the great man despite all our scepticism.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Xosar: Let Go (LP, Black Opal, September 2016)

Apparently, Sheela Rahman has been releasing 12″s for a few years now, but this is my first encounter with her. And a thrilling encounter it is, too. The tracks explore a range of vaguely IDM-ish analogue techno and squelchy Chicago acid sounds (rather disproving my overly-neat thesis about techno LPs going either deep or broad, since this does a bit of both). There are some real bangers here, hard and furious drum machines dominating but always with enough bloopy melody to avoid making it a tough (or tuff) listen. Others tracks are more floaty and mysterious, although always with a propulsive core to keep things moving along. There’s a superb balance of hard vs gloopy, focus vs delirium, retro vs futurism… Basically, this makes me happy when I listen to it, and I’m giving it two very enthusiastic thumbs-ups.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Techno / House.

Aphex Twin: Cheetah EP (12″, Warp, July 2016)

Remember 2014, when new Aphex material (and new old Caustic Window, in particular) was really exciting? Remember 2015, when new Aphex material was kinda *shrug* and “whatevs”? Well, now it’s 2016, and perhaps I’m just about ready to treat new Aphex material on its merits, rather than harking back to the ’90s. Perhaps… Anyway, on this basis 2016 is shaping up to be, well, somewhere in between. Here are four tracks (plus two half-minute excerpts) of bloopy woozy low-tempo analogue acid techno, sort of like Analord with a hint of Windowlicker — and, in the video game blips and blurps on B1, a reminder of his take on the Pac-Man tune as Power-Pill. There’s no track listing on the vinyl, but the internet reveals that the A-side tracks are variants of “cheetah”, a reference to the vintage synth of that name, and the B-side of “cirklon”, a reference to a hardware sequencer. It’s sonically satisfying and the tunes are nice… but, still, if it weren’t for the weird RDJ-completism habit I can’t seem to shake, I’m pretty sure I would never have bought this.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Container: LP (LP, Spectrum Spools, June 2015)

Sometimes, what you need in your life is 27 minutes of hard-as-nails acid techno. Container’s latest record (confusingly, his third simply called LP) is pretty much perfect for those occasions. All seven tracks here are bangers, amazing squelchy basslines over relentless high-BPM beats. This kind of reminds me of Universal Indicator’s Innovations In The Dynamics Of Acid megamix, and comes out of the comparison quite well — which is not something I say lightly. ‘Ave it!

I bought this from Juno. They call it Techno.

AFX: Orphaned Deejay Selek 2006–2008 (LP, Warp, August 2015)

The latest in the recent run of releases from the pen of RDJ is his first under the AFX name since (by my reckoning) the untitled split 12″ with LFO ten years ago. If the title is to be believed, it was made in the three years following that — and it’s quite believable, because the skewed analog acid sounds are, well, an awful lot like the 11-disc Analord project which also appeared in 2005. It’s a pleasing blend of lithe beats and off-kilter melodies, and it is, of course, produced with great skill. But, after all this time, this really doesn’t feel like a significant addition to the canon. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m underwhelmed by this whereas I was blown away by last year’s Caustic Window LP, a full twenty years old on its release. Perhaps it’s age means that it feels neither modern nor vintage; perhaps it’s because there was so much of this stuff around that, even at the time, I was overwhelmed by the volume of the Analord material; perhaps it’s because the excitement of OMG New Aphex Stuff petered out about five months ago; or perhaps this music simply isn’t as good. I mean, obviously I’m still pleased I bought it, but

I bought this from bleep. They call it Electronic and Electronica Electro and Acid Dancefloor and Techno. They appear to have given a bonus download-only track called umil 25-01 to everyone who bought it. That’s a nice piece of work, but very much more of the same.