Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James is nothing if not prolific. Following his most recent “official” album — 2014’s acclaimed Syro — James has uploaded several albums’ worth of material to his “secret” SoundCloud page. His most recent batch of songs, all of which were uploaded within the last week, find James revisiting his more ambient side à la 1994’s classic Selected Ambient Works Volume II.
James has earned a reputation as an enfant terrible over the years, but these new songs explore the more pensive, melancholy side of his music — inspired, no doubt, by his father’s death earlier this year. The newest song, “qu 1,” is particularly gorgeous, consisting of nothing but floating clouds of synth chords that create a particularly mournful and contemplative space. (No stranger to hiding additional information in his songs, James included the following message in “qu 1”’s MP3 file: “See you on the other side, dad.”)
Meanwhile, “tha2” — and its “world scam” remix — blends acid-dripping beat pulses with ghostly synths for an overall effect that’s far more sedate than it seems like it should feel… in a good way. And that remains the case even when the “world scam” remix adds some actual beats.
Even the most uptempo and propulsive of the new songs, “prememory100N pt2,” possesses a sort of eerie distance thanks to James’ evocative synths, which dance around the song’s periphery. Rather than drive the song, the beats end up getting filtered through those synths and trapped like insects suspended in amber.