My purpose here is not to write a review of Syro, Aphex Twin’s latest album, as there’s already way too much stuff on the web about it and I won’t be adding anything more useful or interesting. This is more like looking back on how this artist contributed to shaping and defining my musical tastes (and much more maybe).
Syro, the much anticipated new album by Richard D. James, known as Aphex Twin, thirteen years after Druqks, eighteen after what I consider to be his masterpiece, Richard D James Album, and nineteen after I Care Because You Do and the double Hangable Autobulb EP which I still love and listen from time to time. I’m not taking into consideration his material released as The Tuss or the Analord series as I didn’t pay so much attention to it at the time therefore it didn’t play a huge role in my music discovery journey. It was 2005/06 and I was into different stuff.
Back to the future, we now have Spotify, so I listened to the whole album a couple of times last week: I tried as much as I could not to be influenced in any way by others people opinions and reviews I read, listening to it without prejudices and taking it as it was.
I like it, it is not Richard D. James Album, it’s a whole different thing, and I’m not the same person as that seventeen years old who listened to it for the first time. I’m not saying, sadly I’m not the same as when I was younger, I’d rather say: it’s obvious that a whole new world was unfolding before my
eyes ears, these sounds were the same as alien artifacts to me and I was beginning to scratch the surface.
The real test consisted in listening to the whole album while going to work, just like I did with Richard’s older stuff when I was still going to school: back then I had a Walkman, now it’s a smart-phone, mp3’s instead of cassettes, but essentially nothing has changed so dramatically.
As soon as I hit the streets the music started to play and I instantly felt the same vibes I used to feel back then, just like as I was moving again in that comfortable yet undisclosed space which was an essential part of my daily routine: don’t get me wrong, as of now I hardly feel like I’m listening to something astonishingly different and/or new, and Syro is no exception to that. Nevertheless, whenever I find myself enjoying an album from beginning to end, without skipping a track, this usually means I’m listening to something good.
A little bit more than 1 hour, that’s what it takes from home to my workplace, passed like a breeze, so much that as soon as I stopped the music I was already looking forward to the moment I would have taken the metro again just to put on my earplugs and listen to Syro. To quote Mark Richardson’s review on Pitchfork ‘it’s a headphone record par excellence, an hour-long feast for the ears’, and that brings me back in time once again as I could spend hours listening records at home but rarely feel the same magic when going out at night attending to live shows, dj-sets or rave parties. Apart from some pretty exciting moments like Autechre at their finest playing live at Forte Prenestino in 1997, or Mike Dred who put together an incredibly varied dj-set, I felt like electronic music was something made to be enjoyed in a comfortable place, alone, or better, with some good friends who were as passionate as me about it.
I use this occasion to remember Riccardo Petitti, who recently passed away: resident dj at Brancaleone in Rome for several years, he was an influential figure for us as well as for the local electronic music scene. He used to work at a record shop named Electric Sound, a pretty unremarkable shop if it wasn’t for him and its backroom hosting a wide selection of electronic music records. We could spend hours there listening to electronic music, asking him about new artists, forthcoming releases or just chatting, a safe haven where to catch up with whatever new sound was being produced back then. The last time I met him was ages ago, and I think it’s sad how at times we seem to recall people we lost track of only after their departure.
In this very moment there’s Aisatsana playing, a beatless track based on a simple and melancholic piano line accompanied by some occasional birds chirping, and this is how Syro ends: an amazingly consistent album which deserves more than one listen to be fully appreciated, a far more inspiring and rewarding work than I expected. My impression is this collection of tracks named Syro was produced by someone who loves making music and has fun playing with his toys, someone who doesn’t really need praise to be validated and feels like the process itself is far more important than the result. Maybe I’m just projecting the way I personally see things into him, even though the following interview on Rolling Stone seems to confirm my hypothesis:
I could have written a really technical review of Syro focusing on production, mixing, synthesizers and drum machines. What for? The emotional aspect for me here is much more important than anything else, and that’s because I regard music as one of the most moving expression of human creativity.
Do I care because you do? Or do I care for those who do? The main purpose behind this blog is the act of writing itself, but I clearly appreciate people stopping by and reading my posts. I care for anyone curious enough to read whatever I write about, and I’m sincerely happy if I can produce anything even remotely inspiring, at any level. What if nobody stops by? What if no one notices? Well, I have no control over this, therefore it can’t be a problem of mine.
I can listen, I can read, I can think, I can write. Stop. After this, there’s nothing else I can do.