Afterthoughts: Aphex Twin – ‘Syro’ Album Listening Event

Following on from the blimp, the spray paint and the deep web album announcement came the news of eight listening events in various cities around the globe. We went to the London leg on Friday 5th September for our first opportunity to hear Aphex Twin’s ‘Syro’ in full.

One thing we learnt last Friday night is that life is good without mobile phones – well temporarily anyway. After queuing for around an hour outside The Laundry in London Fields we were met by door staff who immediately removed our smart phones, taped raffle tickets to them, asked for our initials and placed them into a box. Anyone with bags that contained laptops or tablets were asked to head straight over to the main cloak room to hand them in – just incase anyone was planning on Skyping their Mum during the event. As we headed through the doors (which were illuminated with a lime green projection of that instantly recognisable logo) someone further back in the queue sarcastically shouted forwards – “this is your last chance to Instagram!”

aphex box set

Upon entry it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the small-scale, trimmed-beard stroking affair we initially anticipated, with high energy in the room which had around 400 people inside as queues stretched around the corner. Having already reached for my phone on several occasions in the first 20 minutes of being separated, it was a stark reminder of the woeful habits that owning these devices have instilled within us. But for the first time in a very long time here was a room full of music enthusiasts enjoying music without a selfie in sight. No photos, no videos, no texts, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Tinder, no Vine, no Happn, no Grindr, no Sky Sports News, and lots of people rediscovering the art of conversation. It would be great to see this kind of policy enforced on more events like this, but the process of returning 600-odd handsets at the end of the night did turn out to be a bit of a lengthy headache for those involved.

After a first listen, albeit through a pretty muddy soundsystem, this appears to be the most accessible and danceable Aphex Twin album yet. Throughout it’s entirety it felt like a retrospective look back at all the different musical phases his career has traversed through, a ‘best of’ album of sorts, but with completely unheard material. Although we probably could have spent more time attentively note-taking to give you a more detailed description, we got caught up in the excitement and were busy dancing and excitedly chatting like 16 year olds hearing RDJ’s music for the first time all over again. But ‘Syro’ sounded like it had it all: ambient spine-chilling intros, frantic breakbeats, chunky squarewave basslines, vocoders, sci-fi chords, comedy, atmospheric piano outro – pretty sure there were even some bongos in the mix towards the start. There was a feeling throughout the first listen that he was doing less fucking around then we’re used to, letting musical ideas develop and taking fewer dramatic left-turns. It even felt quite disciplined at times – by his standards anyway. Needless to say this album is full of jaw-droppingly stunning moments that seemed to become heftier and more acidic as it progressed. It’s hard to say much more on just one listen but we’re looking forward to getting it on the headphones and seeing how ‘Syro’ shapes up over the coming weeks, months and years. Full album review to follow.

For now, Richard D. James, take a bow.

Josh Thomas

‘Syro’ is out 22nd September on Warp. You can pre-order it here