Poor Richard D. James. He has simply set the bar too high to be given a fair shout these days. We’ve just come to expect so much from the British producer that even a remarkable EP, such as his latest, Collapse, is likely to be met with some glassy-eyed indifference. That’s not warranted though, and here’s why: While there isn’t necessarily anything “new” on here for Aphex Twin fans, this is still light years ahead of almost every other producer on the planet. He basically destroyed the mould some 30 years ago, so the fact that he can still come up with a track like “1st 44,” for example, with its coy drum ripples, echoed jungle MC clamour and tight pockets of scratching, is something of a wonder.
And yes, there are certain Aphex tropes that rear their head on this EP, like the impish melodies that are strewn throughout his back catalogue. Dismantle the lead single “T69 collapse” or “MT1 t29r2” and you’ll find synth lines that sound like a demonic ice cream van trying to coax you into a nice soft-serve cone, with all the fixings, but that’s a crucial aspect.
The percussive onslaughts that James dishes out need something to cushion the blow — remove that fluffy padding and you’d be pummelled to dust in no time. Other sonic motifs, like the acid squelch of closing track “pthex,” call to mind “Reunion 2” from Analord 5. “pthex” is its own animal though, and an untamed one at that.
Still, if you are insisting that something new simply must happen with this release, then look to the curation. Earlier Aphex records were largely marred by craters of aimless material, but Collapse follows his more recent tradition of delivering releases packed with no-nonsense tracks, a development that we surely can all get behind. Every song on here is an absolute gem, and while it does sound like some of Aphex Twin’s previous material, that’s probably the best compliment it can get. ( Warp)