Aphex Twin at Printworks, London: still one of the greatest electronic shows on earth

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Printworks, London. September 14, 2019

In many ways Aphex Twin has nailed the flexible work-life balance for a heritage live act looking to keep on the employment wagon. Having cultivated his own limited, non-traditional tour cycle, rarely attached to a specific new music release (although they have been a more frequent occurrence in recent years too), with Richard D James every show feels like a rare event that demands extra attention and reverence.

This managed scarcity is surely part of the reason that tonight and his last London show at Field Day two years ago have both been livestreamed online – even though they play out in a near identical format. The other main reason is probably that he was, is and forever will be one of the most consummately talented electronic artists on the planet.

And so we begin with a wash of ambient and atmospheric moods against soft light baths and a contorting, sound-responsive AFX logo that sits right up to date with other generative sound & visual movements coming out the woodwork, moving into the distorted hard stuff that mixes crate digger classics like Renegade Soundwave’s ‘The Phatom’ with additional AFX-y drums and noises to give everything that remixed-live-in-the-moment feel. The specifics of the Track IDs matter less than the sum total of the experience and how the genres bleed into one another effortlessly, though a few Aphex Twin originals – most notably an outing of ‘Stone In Focus’ from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 2’ – do slip through the seamless fuge of transformative sound.

Aphex Twin at Printworks

Weirdcore’s trademark visuals are present and correct in a slight variation of 2017’s Field Day performance – Aphex has essentially been touring the same visual show for over a decade, just incrementally building out elements and adapting it to each venue. So while the crowd let out a giant boo when Boris Johnson’s contorted face comes up on stage, the upcoming Brexit reference was a trick you could have predicted from the start (every show for a few years now has come pre-loaded with images of local heroes and villains). More surprising are the 8 giant animatronic, double sided LED dropdown screens that rise and fall from Printwork’s ceiling in uniform separation, making the venue’s long, cabin like arena feel an Acid Boeing ready for lift off.

Aphex’s final 20 minutes of jungle feels even more powerful when you remember where we ambiently started almost two hours ago – but this, at the end of the day, just another Aphex Twin show… lucky for us (and him) that still equals one of the greatest electronic shows on earth.