Aphex Twin’s Massive Catalog, Including Rare Unreleased Tracks, Is Now Free to Stream Online

Few things con­nect the elec­tron­ic music of the 90s to that of today like Aphex Twin. The long career of Richard D. James—he of the sin­is­ter grin­ning face plas­tered on bux­om mod­els and a gang of vio­lent chil­dren in his ear­ly NSFW videos—anticipated and in some ways invent­ed the glitchy, clat­ter­ing, squelch­ing, cacoph­o­nous, alien sound of the dig­i­tal 21st cen­tu­ry. The release of his entire cat­a­log, includ­ing sev­er­al unre­leased tracks, on his web­site to buy or stream for free shows his clear aware­ness of how sem­i­nal his music has been for over three decades.

James became a crossover super­star in the late 90s, grew irri­tat­ed with imi­ta­tors, got lumped in with so-called IDM (“intel­li­gent dance music”), and threat­ened retire­ment many times. Then he did retire the Aphex Twin name in 2001 after releas­ing Drukqs and mak­ing music for the next few years under oth­er monikers. He also claimed he’d nev­er release his most inno­v­a­tive music “because I don’t want peo­ple rip­ping me off.”

In the mean­while, a cou­ple or so major glob­al eco­nom­ic changes came about, new younger fans came of age, and bed­room pro­duc­ers armed with lap­tops instead of the bat­tery of syn­the­siz­ers James com­mand­ed sprang up around the world. It might have seemed—as it did for a num­ber of peo­ple who grew up mak­ing, buy­ing, and danc­ing to elec­tron­ic music at the end of the 20th century—that it was time to pass the baton to anoth­er rave gen­er­a­tion.

Instead, James returned in 2014—after his infa­mous logo popped up on NYC sidewalks—with a new album, Syro, a huge suite of songs that won Aphex Twin near-unan­i­mous crit­i­cal ado­ra­tion and a Gram­my. The her­met­ic musi­cian had pre­vi­ous­ly summed up his rela­tion­ship with his audi­ence by telling an inter­view­er he hat­ed them. He appeared to hate the press even more. Return­ing thir­teen years lat­er as a 43-year-old father seemed to have mel­lowed him.

James is pos­i­tive­ly chat­ty in a lengthy Pitch­fork inter­view. He begins by explain­ing the ori­gin of the word “syro.” It came from his son, who “doesn’t know what it means, either. But it means some­thing. And it sounds cool.” He might have been talk­ing about the titles of near­ly every track on the album, his lat­est EP, or his retire­ment album, Druqks.

For James, a blan­ket con­tempt for the sta­tus quo man­i­fests in scram­blings of sense and sound.  Syro’s only deci­pher­able title, “minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix],” may or may not refer to the 1983 British children’s show fea­tur­ing pre­teens singing con­tem­po­rary pop songs while dressed up like the orig­i­nal per­form­ers. Could be a pis­stak­ing nod to his gen­er­a­tion or an earnest vis­it to child­hood mem­o­ries through the por­tal of his own kids’ non­sense word, or both.

The Aphex Twin come­back saw James open­ing up about his process in inter­views and releas­ing a list of synth instru­ments used on Syro in the form of a dense info­graph­ic, above. (The dots in con­cen­tric cir­cles “line up with the track list,” notes Syn­th­topia, “so they graph­i­cal­ly indi­cate the gear that was used on each track.”). These ges­tures to his fans pre­saged the release of his entire cat­a­log for stream­ing on his site, “a near-com­plete col­lec­tion of James record­ing out­put since 1991,” as Ars Tech­ni­ca writes, includ­ing “hours of pre­vi­ous­ly unre­leased mate­r­i­al from pret­ty much every phase of his career.”

Check out the site here to stream Aphex Twin’s record­ed out­put in chrono­log­i­cal or ran­dom order, buy each track in a num­ber of for­mats, includ­ing the unre­leased rar­i­ties, and read the exten­sive Aphex Twin inter­view at Pitch­fork, a con­ver­sa­tion that sees him mus­ing on aban­don­ing all pre­vi­ous human influ­ences and mak­ing music from out­er space.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Elec­tron­ic Music Visu­al­ized on a Cir­cuit Dia­gram of a 1950s Theremin: 200 Inven­tors, Com­posers & Musi­cians

Free, Open Source Mod­u­lar Synth Soft­ware Lets You Cre­ate 70s & 80s Elec­tron­ic Music—Without Hav­ing to Pay Thou­sands for a Real-World Syn­the­siz­er

The 50 Best Ambi­ent Albums of All Time: A Playlist Curat­ed by Pitch­fork

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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