Sound — 8
Richard D. James, better known by his "stage name" of Aphex Twin, has been making and innovating electronic music since the early '90s. While possibly the bulk of his music has been released under the moniker, Aphex Twin, he has also released music under numerous other names. "SYRO" will be the first full-length album released as Aphex Twin in 13 years - since "Drukqs," which was released in 2001. His last released material as Aphex Twin (or AFX), of any kind, was as part of a compilation in 2006 called "Chosen Lords." "SYRO" contains 12 tracks with a total runtime of 64 minutes. The track "minipops 67" was released as the lead single for the album, being released on September 4th.
The album opens up with "minipops 67 (source field mix)," which pretty immediately is about showing that Aphex Twin is still competent at his craft. This is also one of the tracks to contain vocals, even though they are mostly over-processed to the point of being unintelligible. While the track maintains a constant tempo, the morphing that occurs during the track remains unpredictable. "XMAS_EVET10 (thanaton3 mix)" is up next and has some vocals at the beginning that seem to use the same vocoder from the "Donnie Darko" movies or the narration on recent Coheed and Cambria albums. Later in the track there are also some reverb-y chanting female vocals. The track remains one of the most interesting tracks from the album for me. "Produk 29" opens up with a percussion part and some jazzy chords and hand claps, but grows into its own when the melody starts coming in. There are some vocals that seem more like a field recording of a female calling a lady she saw at the club a whore. "4 bit 9d api+e+6" contains what I think are synthesized "Aaahs" and a very liquid feel to this track. The track "180db_" opens up with a repetitive kick and what I think of as almost stereotypical techno but with some drag being added to it, which gives it an almost frantic feel and adds a lot to the track. It builds up nicely from there. "CIRCLONT6A (syrobonkus mix)" is up next with some heavily processed vocals and some 8-bit types of sounds making up large parts of the track. This track doesn't so much make me wanna move as it makes me want to sit back and contemplate, but with a good dash of anxiety in there as well. "fz pseudotimestretch+e+3" has a very atonal and jangly opening, and it never quite builds up to anything - but it is a very short track. Next is "CIRCLONT14 (shrymoming mix)," which has a definite dark undertone running through the whole track, but oddly enough is probably one of the highest energy dance tracks from the album. At over 7 minutes, "CIRCLONT14 (shrymoming mix)" does a lot of things, but mostly provides a soundtrack to move to, and maybe even work out some stuff in your head in the process. "syro u473t8+e (piezoluminescence mix)" opens up with some lyrics that I, unfortunately, don't recognize the language of and can't interpret. These lyrics repeat a few times throughout the track, which is otherwise possibly the most straightforward tracks for the first half, though it gets a little unpredictable in the second half. "PAPAT4 (pineal mix)" definitely has a melodic theme that runs throughout it, but besides sticking to the theme, there is a lot of changes going on during this track. "s950tx16wasr10 (earth portal mix)" has a lot of echo-y stuff going on, but as the track progresses it exemplifies what I was hoping to hear from Aphex Twin on this release more than any other track. The album closes out with the track "Aisatsana," which opens up with a simple piano melody which slowly grows into a solo piano composition and one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Lyrics — 7
There aren't vocals, per se, included on this album - or rather, there are vocals, but not lyrics. Vocals are sometimes used, usually heavily processed, as part of the "beat" but very rarely for their actual content, but rather solely for their sound. The only lyrics that I think are included for their actual words and not just the sound are from the track "Produk 29," which contains the following lyrics: "F--king house/ disgusting/ needy slut/ f--king whore/ like, we were at that club/ f--king house/ disgusting/ needy slut/ f--king whore." Those lyrics pretty much just repeated a few times throughout the track. I would have to rate more off of the vocals as being used as a "sound" or another instrument in the mix.
Overall Impression — 8
While many of Aphex Twin's early releases were potentially "game changing" for the electronic music genre, "SYRO" doesn't live up to that level of innovation, but is still a very enjoyable electronic music release. I am not a fan of Aphex Twin's method on this album for naming tracks - even though I understand it isn't a completely new concept, it is difficult to say to a friend "hey, you should check out 's950tx16wasr10 (earth portal mix)' when you get a chance." With that being said… you really should check out that track. Some other tracks that stood out a lot for me were "Aisatsana" (though it isn't technically techno), and "XMAS_EVET10 (thanaton3 mix)." This isn't a bad way for Aphex Twin to reintroduce himself - I'm eager to see what else he might have to say in the near future.