England - Full Moon 103 - 02/24/05
AFX (Aphex Twin)
Analord 1 + Analord 2
The first 12" from Richard D. James' humongous Analord series begins with "Stepping Filter 101", a song that while rhythmically and formally quite complex is melodically minimal in the most traditional IDM way. "Canticle Draw" is foreboding and dark. It contains a melodic line that is about a quarter-step out of tune, which creates a sort of numb emotion. It's short, at 1:45. "MC-4 Acid" is an emotionless car-ride through 16th-note staccatto sine sounds and knob-twisting. While that might sound like some kind of a disparagement, I assure you, it is not. "Untitled" is a truly beautiful short-song, using the first synth string pads in Analord, and resetting the previous songs' staccatto frame around a much warmer picture.
"Where's Your Girlfriend?" is almost a danceable tune, but one with a quick tempo. Maybe the coolest of people could somehow get away with dancing to this song. There's a chance that at 5:05, "Where's Your Girlfriend" is a bit too long, but that's not something I can say for sure. It's no complaint.
"Grumpy Acid" combines with "Where's Your Girlfriend" to give the listener just a hint at Richard D. James' sense of humor. As is somewhat of a staple with James, there are staccatto 16th notes everywhere in this song. "Analord 158b" is the final song on this short album. It features an incredible fart-bassline
that bounces everywhere and finishes Analord 1 out more than perfectly.
These songs are fast, minimally emotional adventures through worlds yet unexplored by anyone but Mr. James. Analord 1 leaves me feeling quite numb, in a way it is mind-clearing. This is great music, and it drips with a feeling of "now". Aphex Twin is one of the most respected electronic musicians in the world, and for good reason. Judging from this first 12'', the Analord series will prove to be a vital addition to his catalogue.
Judging from the artwork, Analord 2 will appear more grey and human than the emotionally sterile (and incredibly good) Analord 1. Also, the names of these 4 songs are all really weird. Side A begins with "Phonatacid". The tone of the first drum machine reminds me of riding in a car through dark-green woods. Don't ask me why, but somehow the starkness of the machine brings this back to me. Rhythmically, this song uses the very same signiture midtempo 4/4 with staccatto sixteenth note figures driving. The melody, while far from catchy, is quite good in this song. There is a brief return here of the numbing out-of-tuneness that appeared on the first 12''. The resetting of it in this song is bizarre. There is also a very brief but very affecting voice part in this song, highly processed for ultimate strangeness. "Phonatacid" is over 9 minutes long, but does nothing to overstay it's welcome. "Laricheard", a short song at 2:15, opens with a strong four to the floor bassdrum under a synthpad Richard D. type chord progession. Unsystematically syncopated 16ths
return, and there are plenty of electronic ghost notes that begin to creep into the bassdrum line.
"Pissed up in SE1" begins side B. While more quarter-steps grate at the eardrum, the first (to my ears) thematically oriented melody of Analord unfurls. Not sure if it's intentional is the songwriting, but somehow this song strikes me as feeling shorter than it really is, which is always a very odd effect. We finish up with "Bwoon Dub", another midtempo 4/4. The harmony in this song is long and flowing, and the bassline repeats a montra that I swear Aphex Twin has been repeating for a long time now, astonishingly, each time as original (if not more so) than the previous.
While still a "stark" album, Analord 2 does end up just lush enough to move from Analord 1's white to it's own grey.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks