Aphex Twin - Syro: I’d like to pull back the curtain and reveal our very special guest in this installment of the music email. You know him, you love him. HI ZACH. Henry is here too. Hey begs ~~~~~
Let’s talk Syro.
Ari: My branium cranium was swirling after first listen. I couldn’t quite describe the experience of the album, but I knew I dug it. I can say that it’s not something you should listen to in pieces.
Zach: For me, the most immediately striking thing about this album was how it operates on a purely subconscious level the first time around. Your mind can’t possibly keep up with all of the zig-zagging rhythms, chords, and melodies that RDJ throws at you, so you basically have to let the enormity of the thing wash over you. It’s only through repeated listens that you can really squint at the music and pick out individual parts and how they relate to the overall construction of these pieces.
Henry: Yeah I feel pretty much the same way, just listened to the whole thing for the first time and it’s just so big and vast and ever-shifting that it’s hard to pin down. I think it really continues what he was doing with Drukqs in that it’s like a ride through all these weird sonic environments. i think sonically it’s hugely impressive and I’m really looking forward to going back to it a bunch of times and being able to hear everything in more detail cause I feel like I only absorbed about a 10th of it. I honestly don’t feel qualified to speak on it right now.
Didn’t process many individual songs but “PAPAT4” is absolutely beautiful. Wasn’t super impressed by the first few songs but the album really opened up around track 4 or 5 for me.
Also this album is sooooooo funky. Can really draw a line from Detroit techno to this shit.
Ari: I like that Henry, sonic environments. It feels like the shifts are constructed to tap into every zone of the brain to heighten the listening experience. The shifts can be so stark and simultaneously organic, HOW DOES HE DO IT? I agree, need to keep listening and listening. Zach are you on your, what, 15th run of hearing the album? What point are you at with the evolution of the listen? Also wooooooow, the ballad at the end. It’s so different from the rest of the album, but really has its place and left me with an emotional pang. “It’s over.”
Zach: Every song is just immaculately constructed - to the point that I can’t even believe a human being actually envisioned the ways these songs evolve. It feels like you’re hearing the birth of a new organism or even a civilization that exists in another dimension, beyond our traditional conception of time and space. It’s transporting, bizarre, heady stuff.
After listening to this album way too much over the past few days, I now have a basic understanding of how these tracks function. Instead of being completely overwhelmed, I can focus on smaller details and enjoy all the tiny harmonies, rhythms, and throwaway sounds that RDJ has tucked away in this music. It’s also really fun to anticipate certain sections of songs and then have the satisfaction of hearing them played out (for example, the DIRTY synth line at 4:49 of “XMAS_EVET10”).
Interesting that Henry is connecting more with the 2nd half so far - I’m much more partial to the first as of now, but maybe that’s because my brain gets exhausted by the time we get to the crazier jungle-esque tracks near the end. The piano ballad at the end is indeed beautiful, and serves as a necessary decompression after this intense journey. I find it no less interesting than the rest of the pieces - you never know exactly where he is going to take that melody line with each repetition. And lovely bird sounds too!
Henry, maybe offer your thoughts on how your perspective changes from the first to second/third listens? I think those spins were most crucial in terms of piecing together how this record works.
(god that was too long sorry)
Ari: Okay I just listened to it for the first time on good headphones. Changes thangs. An album that can physically suspend you, hold you captive, bitchslap you, then nurture you, you relax and soak in its noise. I haven’t listened to something that has grabbed me like that in a long time. Don’t try to understand it, just surrender. I laid my head back, closed my eyes… chromesthesia~~~
Henry: One minor complaint: I get that he’s trying to rewire people’s brains and that but i do find myself wishing these songs had at least something to grab on to. He’ll introduce something really cool sounding and then 4 bars later it’ll be gone forever, which I’m sure is the goal but it makes it really hard to remember anything about the songs! Cool when you’re swept away in them but I completely forget how most of them go. The pure sound experience is really neat but I think one of RDJ’s best qualities is his gift for melody, which I’m not hearing very much on this record.
Still really feeling the jungle tracks, recognize a few classic samples hidden away in “s950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)”. We really need to find a better way to refer to these track titles haha.
Zach: The melodies are there, but you really have to wait for your mind to grab them! I didn’t truly grasp the chord progression on “4bit” until my 4th or 5th listen, and now I salivate every time it comes on.
The true beauty of this record unfurls when you begin to race alongside these songs rather than trying to play catchup. The curlicue patterns of “CIRCLONT14” will get stuck in my head randomly during a day at work…it’s the strangest thing to actually find myself humming something that I originally found so bizarrely atonal and un-catchy.
Your rewiring process has only begun, Henry! Keep digging deeper because there is much to grab onto here. And yes, headphones are indeed a different ballgame when it comes to this stuff. It’s the only way to find yourself truly immersed in the Syro Dimension.
The one thing you can take away from this is that Zach Nivens has found his soulmate. There will be a wedding in the spring and errbody is invited!!!
Recommended Tracks: All