Review Summary: This EP is Aphex Twin’s most low-key, controlled release in a long time, presenting a slight, but welcome departure from the spontaneous character of its companion full-length.
Unlike the avant-garde weirdness of last year’s Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt. 2
, the Cheetah
EP actually feels like a logical counterpart to SYRO
. The electronic instruments are back, with the welcome prominence of analog synthesizers and drum kits creating a warmer, more retro feel to the music than we’ve heard from an Aphex Twin release in quite some time. It’s also somewhat more minimalistic than SYRO
; while the latter thoroughly revelled in its spontaneity and carefree (sometimes chaotic) composition, Cheetah
pulls on the reins a little bit, resulting in something more controlled, structured and relaxed than anything Richard D. James has released under the Aphex Twin moniker since, dare I say, 1995.
This isn’t to say that Cheetah
is superior to SYRO
, though. It’s certainly not as consistent; “CHEETA1b ms800” and “CHEETA2 ms800” are both somewhat random-sounding and purposeless, as though James merely added them to the EP as an afterthought. There are definitely some cool colours in those 27 second-and 37 second-long tracks, but they feel underdeveloped and incohesive nonetheless. Despite the presence of these two tracks, though, the majority of Cheetah
actually feels quite stable, filled with groovy basslines, bouncy melodic lines and ethereal synth pads that provide a varied and rich atmosphere. It’s not entirely unlike SYRO
; there are still a lot of different themes and ideas in a given track that seem to pop effortlessly out of the air. The difference, though, is that there’s always purpose: each track, aside from the aforementioned two, unfolds with a sense of cohesion and narrative that sometimes even resembles the early ambient Aphex Twin releases.
It would be exciting to see Richard D. James take the sonic departure of this EP even further with the next EP or LP. While it is great to hear an Aphex Twin release sounding more stripped-down and low-key than any others in a long time, an even greater focus on consistency next time could give us another Aphex Twin masterwork. James hasn’t exactly been known for creating cleanly organized music in recent years, but the greater discipline and control of the Cheetah
EP makes me hopeful that this just might change.