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Inside the Invite-Only Aphex Twin Listening Party For Syro

We got a sneak listen at the LP everyone is talking about.
September 9, 2014, 1:37am
Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

On a recent summer afternoon, a group of people were clustered outside Verboten, the Brooklyn nightclub hosting the New York City listening party for Aphex Twin's long anticipated comeback album, Syro. Reserved and mild-mannered, these lucky chosen few were nothing like the club's usual clientele; instead, they were a perfect representation of the types of heads who remain devoted to the famously elusive producer, who has not released an album under the Aphex Twin alias for what feels like a painful eternity (specifically, 13 years).

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We were shuffled into the club one by one, instructed not to silence, but to turn off our cell phones completely. I was surprised we were not cavity searched for covert recording devices. Then came a near-hour-long delay—a tedious wait, but nothing if you've already been waiting for 13 years, I guess. Finally, the lights were dimmed, and Richard D. James' iconic symbol (which has been showing up on everything from sidewalks to blimps all over the world) began morphing into a yellow blur on the screen. The opening notes of Syro's track "minipops 65 [120.2] [source field mix]" began to fill the room. You could almost hear the collective butterflies flapping around everyone's stomachs.

In true Aphex fashion, each track evolves in its own way over the entirety of its run time. Interspersed amongst his experimentations in electro funk, elegant piano tunes, and the 90s-rave-style spectrums of acid, jungle and hardcore, were vocoder transformations of the artist's own voice, swirly synth lines, and even the inclusion of bongo drums—an early measure which certainly caught me pleasantly off-guard.

No one is better at disrupting and appeasing his listeners than Richard D. James—sometimes doing both at the same time—and Syro follows in his tradition of sly mind-fucking, pushing buttons people didn't even know they had. The album's third ("produk 29") and fourth tracks ("'4 bit 9d api+e+6′) came off as quite approachable with twangy bass lines, punchy acid, and chopped up vocal bits (possibly sampled from James' own wife and children). The fifth cut of the album,"180db_," was a standout, a grungy techno crusher that a gentleman by my side (who was donning an Aphex T-shirt while gyrating spastically, I should add) confirmed is actually a ten-year-old track that James has slipped into his DJ sets of yore. Complemented by some serious strobe lights, this one felt like it could be played in the club we were standing in, on a different night, to a different crowd, and still sound totally banging.

As the album drew to a close, it was clear from the blissful looks on everyone's faces that Syro will certainly quench Aphex's fans' thirst for fresh material. Whether the analog-driven sounds and long running times will convert electronic dance music's newer fans—the ones more accustomed to driving basslines and ADHD-approved climaxes—remains to be seen. Regardless, when the ambient piano lullaby of "aisatsana" brings the album back down to earth, it is impossible to deny that you are in the presence of greatness.

More Aphex:
Aphex Twin Is Dropping Clues On the Deep Web About His New Album, Syro
We Spoke to Johnny Clayton, the Guy Who Made Aphex Twin Creep Us Out
Warp Records Officially Announces Aphex Twin's New Album 'Syro'
Listen to the First Track from Aphex Twin's Long-Awaited Album 'Syro'