Review Summary: Ah, that's the stuff.
If there's something to be learnt from electronic music, it's that everything is done for a reason. Aphex Twin's fifth LP alienated many who had come to expect the soothing tones of his earlier works as it's much dirtier, harsher and explores the acid genre in a similar way to one of Richard James' other aliases, AFX. What many have failed to understand, and why DrukQs (roughly translated as drug use) has been branded as Aphex Twin's worst LP, is that it triggers the same emotional response as his ambient works; it just comes in a different format.
DrukQs is an exercise in beauty. It's not the kind of beauty that washes over you and soothes you, it's the beauty that offers relief after being bombarded by a blistering attack of extremely heavy acid music. It's hidden away: sometimes at the end (Ziggomatic 17) or in plain sight (Cock/ver 10). But it's ever present, despite the amount of tracks on DrukQs' every song contains some.
Of course, the album isn't that simple. The inclusion of a select few very soft, soothing piano pieces is a brief nod to his old albums, though they also act as a chance for an extended breather between "acid attacks". These pieces do throw the listener off the trail though, as the contrast between them and the acid tracks makes the industrial acid all the more shocking and brutal. With Richard D. James, you can never be sure if this was an unfortunate accident in an attempt to please everyone or a deliberate move on his part to make his music even less accessible (which wouldn't surprise anyone).
It's because of this that a remarkable amount of concentration is needed when attempting DrukQs. Much like Autechre's EP7, it's the little twists and variations that are the most moving, like the last piece of a jigsaw fitting into place as suddenly what once seemed a mess sounds perfect. Because, admittedly, when you first begin to listen to DrukQs it sounds exactly
like a mess, but the beauty of it is that once you're done with the album everything makes perfect sense.
Beauty isn't the only attribute of the LP, the frantic drums and heavy bass have more uses than simply contrasting and masking the melody. The sheer momentum of them will sweep the listener up, once they are comfortable enough with the music, and drive them on. This effect doesn't contrast or mask the beauty to be found in DrukQs, it does quite the opposite, it makes it more obvious.
DrukQs isn't for the faint of heart, it's not for those who are proud with themselves because they got into ITAOTS, it's not for those who get bored of an album after a week... DrukQs is for someone who wants more than music, who instead wants a maze that they can explore for months, constantly discovering those moments that make you go "ah, that's the stuff".