Often proclaimed as electronica's one true genius, Richard James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin, returns with a double CD that showcases his cleverness as well as his inevitable inscrutability. Still, amid macabre birthday songs, unsettling screams, and other bizarre touches, Drukqs offers the most technically accomplished and beautiful tracks of Aphex Twin's career. Every aspect of the Aphex brain is on display here, from stark pieces performed on sampled piano and zither to Squarepusher-styled drum & bass implosions, all informed by that peculiar Aphex treatment of bittersweet melody and unparalleled programming. For an artist once engrossed in homages to his dead twin brother and grotesque videos, Drukqs shows James getting by purely on music alone.
"Mt. Saint Michel Mix" starts as maddening drum & bass, but is soon transfixed by glowing tones, hand drums, and police sirens. "Vordhosbn" is all acid beats and mad synths matched with fart-bombs and haunted cries. "54 Cymru Beats" sounds more like the tweaked-out, goofball techno of Wagon Christ than Aphex, while "Taking Control" goes metaphysical with cerebral synth-drums and muddled vocals. If Drukqs is the result of medication James has been imbibing during his three-year hiatus, then this is indeed better living through chemistry. Regardless, his music is still as beautiful and frothy as ever. --Ken Micallef