I'm not too sure what it is that makes an Aphex Twin record move the way it does. Just when you are starting to get into the groove of a track he’ll bend the beat, cut up the bassline or enforce some kind of mini hallucination on the track which will last no longer than a couple of seconds. He’s the only person who can do ‘Aphex Twin’, even though many over the years have tried.
Thankfully for fans of Aphex Twin, Syro is not too much a departure from what made Richard D. James a messiah for anyone with even the vaguest interest in electronic music in the 1990s. The tracks still swell, bend and twist just like they did on his classic records of yore albeit in a far more subtle fashion. The sounds are immaculately designed with very few organic sounds making their way to Syro’s textural palette. On the second track XMAS_EVET10 this approach is made particularly clear. Squelching synth holds everything together while synth pads, rattling percussion and chiming bells float around the song to create a cacophony of movement. This tactic is deployed on several tracks on the album but unfortunately a lot of the time it doesn’t go anywhere.
If you are looking for something with the power and energy of previous Aphex Twin hits like Windowlicker and Come To Daddy then unfortunately Syro will probably be a bit of a let down. That’s not to say there is nothing you can lose yourself in on this record. 180db is a relatively sparse banger which harks back to early rave releases by artists like The Prodigy. In a lot of ways Syro is almost Aphex Twin looking back on electronic music over the course of his career and reinterpreting it with modern technology. The gorgeous mid 90s style drum n bass of PAPAT4 is as much a nostalgia trip as it is an aural journey. In many ways Syro is a Aphex Twin’s 'Let It Be' moment, looking back on what once was and reinterpreting it for new ears.
For casual fans of Aphex Twin’s work or even devotees of modern EDM, this may not be your cup of tea, however if you are looking for a modern interpretation of the last twenty or so years of electronic music by one of its most significant players, then you should definitely delve into what Syro has to offer. It’s frequently melancholic, at times frantic, and if you’re in the right headspace, it has the potential to be wonderfully captivating.