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In a world where being jarringly different is enough to call yourself a creative, it seems just that the master of dance music re-invention has stuck at his strengths, mastering the art of his own soundscapes. The beauty of Syro is that every second is impeccable. That's not the sound of somebody striving to be heard - it's the sound of an influencer being confident enough to take the edge off. It isn't challenging, it's playful. It feels like stating the obvious to point out the staggering levels of experimentation throughout each track, but it can't be ignored. His way with sounds, with synthesizers, drum machines and artfully collected samples is a type of highly lucid communication.
Unlike many in his sphere of sound engineering prowess, Richard D. James has used his music this time around to express vulnerability, positivity and the various other human emotions songwriters dredge through with dexterity and a luminous vision of what dance music can be. It's strangely and deeply comforting.
And according to his vision, dance music can still spatter skull fragments as the glorious '90s rave ethics of 'PAPAT4 (Pineal Mix)' crash through the ceiling of The Tuss' high-momentum synth bass noodling. It should be a mess, instead it's perfect. Likewise with 'S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)', dusty old amens and classic drum and bass samples meet furious experimentation in a coming together of inspiration and rigid dancefloor rules, which over the course of the track are ground down into a thin strand of sanity while the remaining components flex happily around it.
Correlations between Syro and earlier Aphex Twin work were guaranteed, but given the unpredictable nature of his discography, it was hard to tell which direction this LP would lean towards. There are definite visits to Selected Ambient Works 85 - 92, an album so complete in its summation of what his sound is it would be hard to bypass and move on from. Rather than reworks of old masterpieces, there are allusions and reminders in synth settings and syncopation, such as in '4 bit 9d api+e+6' and 'Minipops 67 (Source Field mix)' where familiarity meets exciting new settings and scenes.
With the years between Druqks, his last outing under the Aphex Twin moniker, and the present day there has undoubtedly been a restless search within the walls of his many home studios to continue producing music that ignites synapses and pushes the boundaries. His influential work as The Tuss is as apparent in the forceful, accessible world of 'CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix)' and even nods to Warp contemporaries like Wisp are heard in 'Fz pseudotimestretch+e+3'. On top of all these myriad influences and divulgences he's also managed to develop a welcoming post-production polish, an achievement most electronic musicians shy away from in the 21st century. Somehow, it's refreshing.
Then sparse, delicate, beautiful 'Aisatsana' kicks a hole in the bottom of everything, sharing a moment of peace and reflection after all the mania with just a small piece of gossamer light piano and birdsong. Reading interviews with him, it's perhaps the most truthful reflection of where he sees himself now - living his preferred quiet life after some years of disturbance in serene surroundings with his family. We've all got dreams, Richard D. James' are just weirder than yours. He wants to continue to be happy the way he is and that contentment is helping him to produce some of his finest work. For a musician, that's truly unique.
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