In a recent interview for Grooves magazine, Aphex Twin answered 25 questions posed by 25 top DJ's and producers. Some questions were thoughtful and introspective to the totally ridiculous ("Does it suck to be you?" ... thanks for playing, James Holden) but all were entertaining. His answers were refreshingly honest, a rare glimpse behind the curtain into the mind of a notorious recluse, a master of deception, and an expert at using his notoriety to fuel his own myth.
But after reading the interview, it took me a while to realize that he hadn't revealed very much at all. He'd managed to avoid any mention of exactly what he'd been doing for the past thirteen years and why he hadn't felt the need to release much music. It's nice to know that he's still motivated and keeping busy with recording, but ... what does that mean precisely?
However, he repeatedly mentioned closing new chapters and moving onto new ones, and also dropped hints about listening and compiling which could possibly lead to putting out a lot of new stuff ...
Well, this week I've been making my way through more than one hundred "new" Aphex Twin tracks that he semi-anonymously uploaded to a Soundcloud account. The news sent the internet into a frenzy. We've been hearing rumours about dozens of albums of unreleased Aphex music for the past twenty years ... so why would they start appearing now? At first, most people concluded that the tracks had to be fakes, albeit really high quality ones. Except that they kept piling up and piling up and who would possibly invest this much time in trying to copy Aphex Twin's style? New tracks were being uploaded in bunches, and people were finding it hard to stay up to date. Eventually I found a 102-track download and stopped worrying about being a completist (the final total was 110 tracks). On the day I'd finally finished listening to ten new albums worth of material, he uploaded another thirty tracks (and later that day another ten) and nobody has any idea when it might stop or even why he's doing it. And again, why now? Is this what closing a chapter means?
Arranged chronologically, the first hundred or so tracks tell a story ranging from the more rave-y side of the SAW I era to the late 90's drill n bass era. You can hear him experimenting with tracks that are a lot like "Quoth" but not really like "Quoth", tracks that could have been on SAW I but not really because they're too rave-y, several tracks that sound like burbly acid house remixes of the stuff he actually released, sublime seven or eight minute tracks that he likely rejected because they were too long or not poppy enough or whatever, a couple of chill out numbers (but nothing that really would have fit onto SAW II ... which means there must be loads of unreleased isolationist ambient still lurking in his archives, right?), a couple of weird voice experiments, and plenty of other odds and sods, and nearly ALL of it is really fucking good and flows together well like one of the best box sets of unreleased rarities you'll ever hear, and did I mention that he's STILL putting this stuff out and nobody has any idea if there's any end to it in sight??