Aphex Twin – Blackbox Life Recorder 21f/ In a Room 7 F760

Aphex twin blackbox life recorder review

Richard D. James has to make music, but he does not have to release it. The premier IDM architect once mentioned the main reason he releases music is to make enough money to continue making music. Aphex Twin songs are so obviously reared by a prolific artist connected to a deep creative flow. Blackbox Life Recorder, the project’s first proper release in five years, has been made available in classic Aphex Twin fashion: cryptically, rather casually, and with an augmented reality app called YXBoZXh0d2lu. Though only three tracks and one remix long, Blackbox Life Recorder 21f/in a room7 F760 is a sick glimpse into Richard D. James’ massive creative output; a keyhole-peek into the enigmatic producer’s genre-defining ethos with hard hitting dance music.

Blackbox Life Recorder is more approachable than 2018’s Collapse EP. While there’s hardly a specific Aphex Twin style, there are traceable throughlines in James’ discography, and the new release could be sorted with more pop-leaning techno records like Syro or Richard D. James Album. But like every Aphex Twin record, Blackbox Life Recorder stands apart, its energy palpable. The record is listed as a double-single (A side and AA side), which is correct: Blackbox Life Recorder is a hit parade. Standouts “Blackbox” and “in a room7 F760” are immediate and spiraling, gripping as hard as they pull, making you wonder how you got here, like a conversation lost in memory and time. 

Blackbox Life Recorder’s themes and musicality feel centered around James’ take on perception. The album cover’s Aphex Twin logo is perfectly aligned; the cube rotates and it’s gone. “Blackbox Life Recorder [Parallax Mix]” runs the title track backwards right-side upside-down, an obscuring feature exploring the what-ifs and what-if-nots. James’ use of musical aliases is important relative to Aphex Twin’s use of perception. The wait time between proper Aphex Twin releases is often stitched together by James’ pseudonym usage, his latest being a Soundcloud account called user18081971. Though the account is not confirmed to be Aphex Twin, those numbers are James’ birthday, and the page is posting original music that sounds an awful lot like Aphex Twin. A day before the release of Blackbox, user18081971 posted two new tracks: “Short Forgotten Produk Trk Omc” and “2nd Neotek Test Trac Omc,” the latter of which is tagged as #afx, and the both of which were “made approx 2006-07.” Despite their age, it’s hard to not think of these as companion pieces to Blackbox

What if everything was a little off? Two inches to the left? And Aphex Twin made a double A-side dance single? Well, it happened, which means we’re already two inches to the left, running into the title track’s open-armed pop rhythms and grooving out its netherworldly rework. With a brilliant pace-setting appendage like “zin2 test5,” BLR makes for an exciting, fun, and cohesive listen. You’ll double take at the pair of cowbells on “Blackbox” before hardly considering their return on “in a room7.” And, like most Aphex Twin material, the music will reveal itself in time. The songs on BLR are bustling, excellent and refined, with plenty to dig into upon repeated listens.

Label: Warp

Year: 2023

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