By Gus Edelen O’Brien
CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)
The first thing to know about Richard D. James’s Album, “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP,” is that it means nothing to him. James supposedly has plenty of LPs and EPs from his 13-year gap, and “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP” is mostly leftovers and b-sides from yesteryear’s “Syro.” On that note however, “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP” sounds nothing like a collection of b-sides from a greater work, and is instead, fresh, original and in the vein of Twin’s earlier album, “Drukqs.” There is no Part 1 album, in case you were wondering. “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP” shows that we are caught in a onslaught of new Aphex Twin albums that James has in store for us.
For those unacquainted with Twin, he is an electronic musician who recreated electronic music in the ‘90s and has songs, “Avril 14th”, “produk 29 ”, and others that sound more like file names than actual “songs.” Most readers will recognize Twin from tracks like Kanye West’s “Blame Game,” which was an edited version of “Avril 14th.”
Listeners may be turned off by his lyric-free music, which cannot be “categorized” as catchy, but like all good electronic music it is more about the feel than the story. Songs range from nine seconds to five minutes. The entire album is a short ride at 27 minutes in total. The album can only really be listened to as a whole because not one of these songs would sound good by itself. The songs serve as a spectrum of different musical flavors along the same vein.
“Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP” is exactly what you think it may be, a collection of acoustic instruments vibrating. Here is a rundown of the tracks involved:
“Diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13”: a haunting shifting song, one that moves along like sand through your fingertips, “Diskhat ALL prepared1mixed” is ominous and follows a simple beat and grinding noises. The song slowly gains momentum as it moves along, getting more sporadic while maintaining its cool edge. This track sounds without aim and without purpose, but keeps up a steady hum. It keeps on coming. Luckily, Twin throws in little surprises along the way to keep things interesting. Its not the greatest track, but it is one that introduces you to the world of the new Aphex Twin.
“Snar2”: This is a short track consisting of drums. The bongos might give you a headache.
“Diskhat1″: It starts with two drum hits as well as a ticking bell, but the song eventually slows down before speeding back up and beginning the refrain again.
“Piano un1 arpej”: a swelling piano ballad, “Piano un1 arpej” scales up and down the piano, and sounds like a piece of a better song rather than its own track.
“DISKPREPT4”: Another angsty sounding track, one that reminds me of a wolf being hunted. The song gains altitude as it goes along and gets more and more urgent. Here is the piano again, but this time it’s put to good use.
“hat 2b 2012b”: This is a track that shows how long Twin has been working on this, and unless the name “hat 2b 2012b” is just a coincidence, judging by the title, it was worked on in 2012, which is over three years ago. Big drum beats and a little tinkling bell. This song is spare but complex at the same time.
“disk audi_12”: Quick and repetitive, the piano is even more sped up than normal, and it hops about, sounding like a cat walking on a piano. It is a nice transition into the next song.
“0035 1-audio”: Another short sweet track, “0035 1-Audio” is abruptly cut off, but while it runs, it is sweet and funky, featuring modern drums and what sounds like a bongo.
“disk prep calrec2 barn dance(slo)”: With a marching, dark beat, and the constant pounding of a large drum, “disk prep calrec2 barn dance(slo)” is a slowed down dramatic showdown with each beat hitting dramatically and intentionally.
“DISKPREPT1”: Beginning with a simple beat, and incorporating the sounds of children talking and whining at a subtle whisper, “DISKPREPT1” sounds exotic and familiar. It picks up speed halfway through the song, but remains at a constant shuffle. Isolated drum tracks give this song some mystical qualities.
“diskhat2”: Remaining in the same vein as the previous “diskhat,” “diskhat2” is a short, to-the-point reprieve and transition.
“piano un10” : A peaceful and plaintive piano piece without much frills, “piano un10” is a sweet piece of music.
“hat5c 0001 rec-4”: The final song on Twin’s album, “hat5c 0001 rec-4” features a train bell ringing in the background that encompasses the entire song. This song swells up like a dark balloon and is punctured by layers and layers of drums and piano.
I know that some of you may not think Twin is electronic artist. However, he is, and this is merely some of his brilliance. He expands in so many directions. Twin’s EP is the work of a grandmaster in electronic music getting back in his swing and putting out a textured album.
Photo Credit: Montecruz Foto