A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Sunday, October 28, 2001

APHEX TWIN - DRUKGS review (2001)

I purchased the new record by Aphex Twin (a.k.a. Ricahrd D. James) this week and was surprised to find it's a two-disc set (though each disc clocks in around 45 to 50 minutes--not the full 74). It's the first full-length Aphex Twin release (to my knowledge--there may have been some U.K.-only releases) since 1997. It's also the first to incorporate a mixture of Richard's (as he's known to his parents) ambient work and fast-beat machine-geek techno. The titles of the tracks are mainly strange combinations of letters that may or may not form actual words, sort of akin to his Selected Ambient Works--Vol. 1, but even more incomprehensible.

The record is called Drukgs...yes, it's 'drugs' mis-spelled but I'm not sure what the meaning is--possibly that Richard was so high he typed it out with the error and liked it so much he kept for the title. Disc 1 contains 15 tracks that blend slower and faster tracks, the opener, JynweyTheK Ylow, features a light beat with the keyboards having a Japanese koto-like sound and could've easily fit on "Selected Ambient Works--Vol. 2". The following track, VordHosbn, has a typical Aphex Twin 'cut-n-paste' beat with analogue keyboads and the tunes continue with KladfvgbungMicShk, another ambient workout which sounds like a stripped-down Loop Guru track or a miniature gamelan orchestra, small gong-like sounds amid a steady soft beat. The tunes trade off--beat-driven track then quiet one and back again. Strotha Tynhe is an acoustic piano solo, different for Aphex Twin, as I've never heard the man play pure piano before. It's quite good, but does sound a bit George Winston--watch that, Richard. Gwely Mernans is very, very ambient Eno-ish, all echo and droning keyboards, it could have been a "Music For Airports" out-take. Bbydhyonchord dishes out a smoove R & B groove, reminiscent of Windowlicker, the title track of his 1999 EP. This one is far less over-the-top than that track, and it does boast authentic hand-claps. The tracks are of a short length, except Mt. Saint Michel/Saint Michael's Mount, at 8 minutes. The most outre tune, Gwarek 2, clocks in at 6 minutes full of weird sounds and samples of people screaming, accompanied by funereal droning keyboards and it's creeeeepy. The rest of the tracks on the disc are a small spoken-word snippet and a couple of piano solos. All in all a solid effort and more enjoyable than the last few A.T. releases.

Disc 2 starts off on the beat-driven tip with 54 Cymrv Beats, a tune in the vein of classic Aphex Twin--drum n' bass with a sample of a guy shouting "Wooo!" and other spoken-word loops, along with robotic funk keyboards--the sort of stuff he was doing on I Care Because You Do.. in '95. Good track, well done. The next track, Btoum-Roumada, has a church-organ sound to it, chiming notes with a hint of reverb--should give all of you ex-Catholics (like me) flashbacks....~shudder~. LornaDerek is an answering-machine message with his parents singing "Happy Birthday" (hey, it's his album--he can put whatever he wants on it, complain about laziness all you want..). Bit 4 is a short piece featuring a couple of stretched-out keyboard drones. There are a couple more solo piano pieces, Father and Petiatil Cx Htdui and another gamelan-sounding one, Ruglen Holon. The lengthy track on Disc 2 is Ziggomatic 17, fast beats and more wiggy keyboards, but not boring in the least. The tune Afx 237 V.7 starts out with an Eno beginning, but morphs into an Aphex track about 30 seconds in with beats and random machine noise, then breaks for a quiet bit--then back to the Aphex musical assembly line and it's brilliant! The disc ends with Nanou 2, which thankfully doesn't sample Robin Williams in "Mork & Mindy", but is a quiet piano piece that reminds me of Spirit Of Eden/Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk. That beautiful organic piano sound, muffled slightly--a great album-closer. If you're a fan, pick this up--if you're curious, it's a good starting point to check out Aphex Twin. Some of the older stuff is a bit angular and could scare off potential dabblers.