Is Aphex Twin Up to His Old Tricks Again?

The cover of Aphex Twin's Richard D. James album, released in 1996
The cover of Aphex Twin's Richard D. James album, released in 1996

When Richard D. James stated to a reporter that he possesses a vault of over 1,000 songs, fans never doubted his claim; they, however, wished for him to dump out the entire treasure trove of buried gems all at once.

Be careful what you wish for, especially from Mr. James himself.

One of music's sacred tricksters, James has pulled clever pranks on an industry which prides itself on profitable marketing templates used by artists ad nauseam. Large costumed bears resembling stuffed animals with Richard D. James' face once danced onstage while James lazily laid on the floor, comfortably resting on his elbow while manipulating sounds from his laptop, surrounded by well-sculpted female bodybuilders. Music-industry representatives watched on puzzled by Aphex Twin's performance, or lack thereof, wondering if he cared at all about his equally puzzled audience.

Released in 2001, James' last official studio album Drukqs began a period of reflection for him at a time when electronic music became the backdrop for many bands only wielding guitars. Like many great musicians before him who withdraw from their craft to contemplate their artistic direction (Sonny Rollins and Kevin Shields come to mind), removing himself from the cacophony of endlessly unrecognizable electronic acts permitted him to create music in isolation, away from the scene many others besides James himself hold him responsible in large part for creating.

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In the fall of 2014, suggestions of Aphex Twin's reemergence surfaced in cryptic messages and blimps bearing the famous Aphex Twin logo, the signature "A" created by Dan Parkes. Following his hilarious marketing ploys was Syro. Sure, many diehard Aphex Twin fans felt underwhelmed by the familiar territories James already discovered; yet, Syro's release led to the promise of more material and last Sunday it won a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album.

With the pending release of the Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt. 2 EP, rumors began to churn on George W. Bush's Internets about the release of 60 songs on Soundcloud under the under the handle user4873635300. Immediately, sonic sleuths began their digital forensics and attempted to determine whether or not these were the works of some incredible con artist, imitator, both, or the actual songs from different periods of Aphex Twin's development from his Selected Ambient Works/I Care Because You Do period to Drukqs and beyond. The evidence strongly points to Aphex Twin.

The SAW (Selected Ambient Works) period represented in user4873635300's canon sounds strikingly crisp, a very damning clue. "8 Lush Ambulance" and "11 Early Morning Clissold" obviously have James' fingerprints all over them. "16 Bpjdrop Forge [pump up the jam mix]" pleasantly reminds us that acid techno was an actual subgenre. "13 High Hats Tune Tamclap Orig" leaves fans who know I Care Because You Do like the follicles on the backs of their hands bewildered. Why didn't this precious stone make the cut?!

Sure, empirically incontrovertible proof does not exist, so determine for yourself if this is Aphex Twin or an extraordinary impostor.

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