Though just about every contemporary electronic artist has either taken cues from or been indirectly inspired by Aphex Twin, there’s still an intangible difference between a genuine Richard D. James creation and one that seeks to replicate the experience. Whether he’s making intoxicating IDM or equally intoxicating (albeit in different ways), drill ‘n’ bass, James commands your attention. When Syro ended a thirteen-year hiatus of recording under the Aphex Twin handle, it was welcomed but also had a twinge of melancholy, extending beyond just the heartfelt piano ballad that closed it. It was the electronic 4:44: a genre legend not chasing trends but looking back with honesty and looking forward with hope.

Since Syro, James has kept fairly busy, with various EPs such as 2016’s Cheetah and working under his AFX handle. The recent plastering of logos around London, Turin and Los Angeles indicated something was on the horizon, and here we have the Collapse EP. Its title indicates chaos, likely in the forms of synths and drum machines running at top speed, BPM-wise, and crashing into each other over and over again. While it’s vibrant, it’s not the total anarchy some Aphex Twin diehards might expect or hope for.

Even if James’ music can be easily identified (and Collapse reveals itself as his work within the first ten seconds, if not sooner), it’s not as easy to create an entire Aphex Twin track in your head. He doesn’t make it look easy, but shows why his effort is worth it. Collapse is full of neat tricks in the form of expertly layered flavors of sound that you come to expect from Aphex Twin and never signalling exactly where he’s going. If the ingredients are familiar, James still knows how to make one hell of a meal out of them.

The best moments allow James to blend aggression with tranquility without making them into matter and antimatter. The synths on opener ‘T69 collapse’ are as dreamy as the drums are furious, but his sense of buildup lets their paths converge and diverge without distracting from their individual beauty. ‘MT1 t29r2’ is coated in intimidation even before the drums enter. Though the percussion initially feels like salvation from the terror and confusion of his synths, a more melodic accompaniment adds periodic calm and bliss (emphasis on ‘periodic’) As the first of three consecutive six-minute tracks, ‘MT1 t29r2’ is impeccably-produced, but loses focus at the point James seems to become self-conscious about having a focus. ‘abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909],’ with its vocal samples about “a land of abundance, joy and happiness” comes across more as a decent impression, lacking the soul of a track worthy of the esteemed Aphex Twin name.

Thankfully, soul and substance can be found in other pockets of Collapse. It’s especially fun to try to find the hook on ‘1st 44.’ James is taunting us like he has a laser pointer and we’re a bunch of cats. As soon as we think we’ve found it, he has us running to the other side of the room. The drums on this track are fast as can be, but they also elevate the relaxed manner of the synths in the first half. Closer ‘pthex’ has an apocalyptic footwork aesthetic and rumbling bass (a sorely-missed feature on much of this EP) that suggests James might’ve been spinning Black Origami before or while recording. But he’s not checking out these sounds like he’s renting them. He’s delving into them and figuring out how to make them his. Title aside, Collapse affirms the stability of the Aphex Twin name.