It's a wonderful time to be an Aphex Twin fan. Until last year, the long-hibernating electronic composer/producer born Richard D. James hadn't released new music since the mid-'00s. Then in 2014 he delivered a return-to-his-people record, "Syro," that reminded us of the many reasons why his sound, filled with what can only be described as Aphexian electronic tones and rhythms, endures.
On Friday morning, James unveiled even more work -- and as a whole it's even more striking than "Syro." Another batch in a volume of music that he indicated was made during his public dormancy, "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP" sounds to be what its title describes: the artist running instruments including piano, drums, bells and various percussion instruments through some sort of interface.
The EP is 13 tracks long, but five clock in at less that a minute -- miniatures, rhythms or drum patterns that have the feel of sonic haiku. Others are epic in their own way: beat-based tracks perfect for mixing with hip-hop a capellas or for use on some future Kanye West project.
An artist whose range is striking, moving between gentle ambient music and jagged-beat breakdowns, James on the EP veers toward the former. Like his music-box sampled track "Nannou" on the "Windowlicker" EP, the stuff on "Computer Controlled" blurs the line between man and machine.
Similar to the way that experimental composer Conlon Nancarrow, whose work for player pianos was composed by punching holes the paper scrolls, blurred the line, James on the EP revels in making acoustic instruments do humanly impossible maneuvers. The tracks titled "piano un1 arpej" and "disc aud1_12" both sound like Nancarrow's work, featuring clusters that only a 25-fingered creature could hit in real time; the relatively epic opener (at 5:22 the EP's longest track) does the same with a range of percussion instruments.
Perhaps the best news? In typical Aphex Twin fashion, he issued something called "part 2" without there being a "part 1" first. That suggests a sequel. Maybe.
The "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP" is available as a 12-inch, CD and download. It's also available for streaming at Spotify.