Despite his semi-reclusive life and bafflingly obtuse music, Aphex Twin is something of an otherworldly superstar. Case in point – the internet hysteria when the ‘Collapse’ EP was teased with a series of stunning posters around the globe. Met with the kind of fervent adoration usually reserved for pop behemoths, the Cornish enigma has clearly lost none of his appeal since returning from a 13-year hiatus with a patchy trio of official releases and a series of Soundcloud dumps (which ranged from leftover beats and noises to ideas that could realistically be considered full Aphex songs).
‘Collapse’ is Aphex Twin at, arguably, his most interesting – as a mutating electronic mastermind, his work at once intricate and immediate. Perhaps it’s those aforementioned Soundcloud dumps clouding the timeline, but it also feels like his most essential release in years. Take ‘T69 Collapse’, the first track shared from the EP (alongside a dizzying, epilepsy-inducing video). On the surface, it’s a clattering, propulsive cut fit for a techno night – one that clearly draws upon his recent big-name slots at festivals such as Field Day, where he played to tens of thousands of rave-ready punters. Dig deeper, though, and there are smarts that other producers would balk at: at the track’s titular, mid-point collapse, there are 150 BPM shifts crammed into mere seconds of song.
Of course, Aphex Twin isn’t one to settle into the slow pace of a conventional dancefloor filler. ‘1st 44’ is less elastic and more full-on Flubber, impossible to discern as it warps around an almost ’80s new wave melodic backbone, while ‘MT1 t29r2’ brings back the rickety beatwork of the record’s opener, this time fusing it with bells and acidic melody – to highly hypnotic effect.
The overriding feeling of ‘Collapse’ comes from the parts that – perhaps more than ever before – sound written for the footwork-packed dancefloors of modern clubs. On ‘abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]’, perhaps the most straightforward of ‘Collapse’’s constructions, a spacey acid synth line sluices over the breakbeat rhythms that propel its former half, creating something altogether more languid. It’s that most unlikely of prospects: an Aphex Twin track that sounds almost humanist. It’s also a welcome breather before bonus track ‘pthex’ brings back the skittering percussion that’s dwarfed the rest of the release.
Throughout it all, though, there’s a deconstructionist feel to even ‘Collapse’’s danciest numbers. It’s music for Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic parties, rather than your aunt Maureen’s 60th – a mad-hatter’s box of tricks, blown up and reconstructed. Unlikely to sway anyone not already on board with Richard D. James’ weirdo-funk, ‘Collapse’ is nevertheless a brilliant, warped addition to a canon like no other.