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The two CD releases are true to the Rephlex school of sound design: geared for home-listening rather than club use, and riddled with fearsome drum machine programming and gleaming ambient chords which surf the crests of adapted jungle rhythms. Though Astrobotnia, wisely, shows delicacy with the opener to Part One, "Lightworks". Emerging from the far distance, echoed crackles and faint explosions of fireworks provoke giggles from children. Astrobotnia deftly morphs these firework sounds into a fragile but complex series of beats, which he binds together with a shimmering belt. It's quite the most gorgeous opening track I've heard all year. "Hallo" spends three-quarters of its length pitting breaks against beatlessness until Astrobotnia relents and allows the beatless to shimmer towards the final fade.
By contrast, "Everyone" is a nagging chant ("I want to kill everyone/ Satan is good/ Satan is our pal"), borrowing the comic-demonic from Aphex's "Come to Daddy" and combining it with the goofball lechery of "Milkman". "Acidophilus" demonstrates how mysterious the classic 303 acid squiggle can be when hemmed within a drifting chords. Later, "Miss June", "Sweden", and "The Wing Thing" bring home a DMX Krew/Aphex fusion of choice electro cuts.
Released on a twelve-inch, the six untitled tracks that comprise Part Two are primed and cut for clubs, recalling the intoxicating pounding excesses of Squarepusher's Big Loada. "Track One" is a Metalheadz rinse-out made galactic by Namlook-like ambient waves. "Track Three" is a Stockhausen-style noise collage that sounds remixed by Newbuild-era 808 State. "Track Four" samples the same snippet of Lyn Collins' "Think" that DJ Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock snagged for their classic "It Takes Two" phased, flanged, and timestretched with caustic rips and ambient nastiness. And the final track recapitulates much of the previous five, but adds a humorously dated future-sound with Astrobotnia's widespread use of retro-spacy BBC Radiophonic Workshop vibes.
Part Three returns to the expansive headspace of Part One, albeit with a more malevolent undertow. Here, the elements that make Part One so lush and celebratory are curiously corrupted. "B" bears the same Metalheadz rhythms as "Track One" of Part Two but underpins them with searing blasts of distortion and clangs of spacejunk. "Acidophilus II" is the abrasive sibling to the "Acidphilus" of Part One; its 303 squiggle is downright menacing. "Esther Calling Jennifer" is even more disturbing: a chthonic growling reigns unchallenged until Astrobotnia releases ninja rhythms which make their stealthy ways to windswept targets.
Though none of these releases breaks new ground, they are unmistakably nostalgic and exactly what I've hoped Aphex might return to. They all hark back to a time when jungle's breakbeats saved IDM from disappearing into an exitless series of ever-decreasing circles. Breakbeats liberated producers from the impositions of relentless four-to-the-floor stomping, and "braindance" escaped the mind/body binary opposition of electronic music-- here was a rhythmically hyper, complex genre that retained its club roots by appending fantastically supple limbs to the listener's fervid imagination. And Astrobotnia, whoever he or she is, sumptuously celebrates that music.
-Paul Cooper, October 04, 2002
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