Aphex Twin – Drukqs 2xCD

Aphex Twin
Drukqs 2xCD

Richard James, aka Aphex Twin, has been described to me as pure genius. If you’re like me, you don’t really get genius. I mean, Van Gogh was a genius. So was Einstein. So is Stephen Hawking, and so was Beethovan. And while you can clearly appreciate, perhaps even love the results of those people’s genius, do you ever really “get” it? It takes a genius to “get” a genius, and I, I freely admit, am no genius.

So far be it from me to tell you what Aphex Twin precisely does with his music. The longstanding electronic artist has been genre-defying for years, releasing multiple albums per year at times in the mid-90’s and remixing popular artists like Beck and Bjork. His blend of techno, acid, house, IDM, and ambient never hopped on popular trends, instead blazing unique paths, often far before people were ready for the sounds he was creating. And then, at what seemed like the height of his popularity, he went into semi-seclusion. After four years, the once extremely prolific artist comes back with the obtuse Drukqs, an album that simply must be heard. But is it possible to “get” it?

I’ve had this album for several weeks now. At times, it’s one of the albums I play early in the morning, when I want something flowing and softer to help me face the day. And at other times, I play it in the afternoon when I want something lively and loud to keep me going. It can be played in the car, where I usually play fast, urgent music, or at night, when it seems right for pretty, soft tunes. To say it’s schizophrenic would be an understatement. This is an album about contrasts, and James wholeheartedly embraces those contrasts, throwing it in your face. Even the short, two-minute interludes have technical merit, often with almost tribal beats and lovely melodies.

The best moments on this CD are when the contrasts work in the same song. On tracks like “Vordhosbn” (James has given most of these nonsense titles), breakneck beats merge with soft piano and atmospheric keyboards for a look at what all electronic music can do. Piano gives a vibrant feel to the droning “Gwely Mernans,” and the lengthy “Mt. Saint Michael + Saint Michaels Mount” really shows off the techno talents of James with fast but coherent beats and plenty of fitting samples, along with keys used throughout for an almost gothic feel. Again, very soft, atmospheric keys provide a nice contrast to the ultra-fast beats of “Meltplace 6,” and on “Ziggomatic V17,” breakneck beats combine with a kind of electronic drone for an interesting combination.

Yet Aphex Twin can also be obtuse and complicated. The assorted clashes of sounds and dissonant rhythm on “Omgyjya-Switch” is obviously intentional but a bit disconcerting. There’s a host of samples and driving rhythms in the chaotic yet catchy “Cock/Ver10,” and the beats on “54 Cymrv Beats” couple with sampled shouts and assorted other noises that clash for an industrial-like techno feel. James even uses samples from his own birthday party in between songs. “Taking Control” sounds a bit too 80’s futuristic for my taste, but other songs like “Afx237 V7” show off what James can really do with his technology.

So yes, I thoroughly enjoy Drukqs. I can sit back and listen to these two CDs in any number of moods and appreciate different aspects of it. I can appreciate the talent here, the moments of beauty, the contrast between peace and chaos. But do I “get” it? I doubt it, and maybe that’s a sign of Aphex Twin’s genius after all.