Collapse EP is the release that adventurous Aphex Twin fans have been waiting for, whether they knew it or not. This is where the formerly reclusive artist finally moves well beyond his own monumental shadow.
Ever since he returned four years ago with the full length album Syro, Richard D. James has been as productive as he’s ever been, reinventing and rendering his sound in a sharper, more vibrant fashion than ever before. While the new batch of music never broke truly new ground, it felt more refined and focused than James’ original run through the 1990s. The astonishing growth was replaced with a prismatic deep dive through his now-established sound, teasing out and amplifying everything that made it work in the first place. Unlike a lot of great artists who return after a lengthy absence, Aphex Twin clearly and deeply understood what made his music special.
Still, until this brief EP release, he had yet to use this renewed energy to reach new territory. In under thirty minutes, Collapse manages to expand the boundaries of what Aphex Twin is capable of, leaping forward in the same way each of his five original full-length albums did. The DNA is visible as we look back – rapid-fire breakbeats and contrasting slow-motion textures, classical instrumentation bent into futuristic shapes, metallic and pixelated and organic sounds weaving together to dizzying effect – but he performs real magic here, with radical shifts that transform each of the four (five on the digital edition) tracks like Pokemon evolving into new and unexpected forms. Every song begins with recognizable Aphex building blocks before detonating, ripping open some black hole in themselves, collapsing all elements, and pulling the listener through to the other side. It’s the sound of change itself, chimerical music brought to life, discovering itself as it goes along.
It’s a shock to the system the first go-round, but the lingering impression is all ecstatic confusion. I had to listen again and again, trying to wrap my ears around what was happening. With the short running time, it’s all over too soon; it’s also perfect for multiple replays. Slowly the catchiest elements emerge, the grand arc becomes visible, the colors fill in every space. It’s not only the most creative thing Aphex Twin has dropped in nearly two decades. This is some of the most thrilling music he’s ever made.
I know I’m late and you’ve probably already heard this album or you don’t care, but just in case: Collapse EP can be purchased through the weird and wonderful Aphex Twin page on Warp or pretty much anywhere music is sold. The digital and streaming version contains an extra, brilliant track, but the vinyl sounds incredible, with some of the finest mastering I’ve heard in a long time. So I recommend hearing both if possible.