Review Summary: An elaborately engineered matrix, sprawling in scope and bottomless in depth.
One day, I may look back at Aphex Twin as the artist that got me into electronic music. It's a strange feeling to be delving into Richard James' music for the first time now, considering that has been around - and popular - since the early 90's. However, musical appreciation knows not logic or timing. It’s a sporadic, often fleeting love, and one that hit with unexpected fervor on the project’s 2018 EP, Collapse
This album is absolutely bursting at the seams with energy. The percussion drives that, keeping the tempo ramped up the majority of the time while allowing for critical pauses and momentum swings that prevent Collapse
from ever arriving at a point of stagnancy. James laces that formula with a variety of intriguing techniques, fitting inventive, texture-rich IDM alongside bustling futuristic synths and reverb-drenched vocal samples that are scarcely audible. All the ideas swirling around this release give it an aura of complexity, this elaborately engineered matrix sprawling in scope and bottomless in depth.
With each cut hovering in the five-to-six minute range, compositional diversity marks the extended play’s greatest asset. Each song twists and turns compulsively, shifting direction on a whim yet not so frequently as to totally disorient, while allowing the listener ample time to sink into each unique atmosphere before James redirects focus elsewhere. Take album highlight ‘1st 44’ for instance, which commences with a blast of computerized, layered beats, but is eventually smoothed out by electronic ripples carrying the impact of a stone dropped in a pond – where one can almost envision the album art represented sonically. By the final minute we’re immersed underwater, outstretching our limbs into a spacey, echoed state of zen-like ambience. James manages to fit entire universes into his songs without them sounding too hectic or overly concentrated.
The praise bestowed on ‘1st 44’ befits the entire EP: it’s amazingly dense, but manages to avoid sounding like it. You can listen to a song like ‘T69’ twenty times and still discover small quirks that evaded your senses on all of the previous run-throughs. Aphex Twin’s combination of vigor and restraint makes Collapse
quite the dynamic piece, one that is always deeply rooted in the present but still able to swerve on a moment's notice. For an artist that has been around this long, the work sounds incredibly fresh, bubbling with raw creative energy while retaining the benefit of experienced, masterful hands controlling the wheel.
Experienced Aphex Twin fans may already know what to expect from Collapse
. However, it says something about Richard James that after twenty six years he still sounds this viable and is able to recruit new fans with something as comparably dismissible as an EP. Regardless of your familiarity with Aphex Twin – or even IDM/electronic music – this is a damn good record that is worth your time. Sink into Collapse
, and let it sweep you up in its collage of vast, intricate atmospheres.