AFX – Smojphace EP

1 out of 5

Label: MEN Records

Produced by: Richard D. James

The initial receptions, initial rejections, initial attempts to frame the EP in various ways, and the subsequent reevaluations of AFX’s 3-track Smojphace EP are maybe more fascinating and fun to trawl through than the music itself is necessarily “worth” listening to. Even my rating is a bit confusing, as I don’t consider this EP without value by any means… though I rarely dig out it for a listen. However, I would say that this feels like – purposefully or not – a bit of trolling by RDJ, and that’s very responsible for the mixed response it engendered, as all the Aphex dedicated are going to search for deeper meaning, while an equal amount of Come To Daddy curious are going to either wrinkle their nose in disgust or laugh it off, and then there are certainly those looking for any reason to poo-poo upon the popular, and can point a finger at Smojphace as artistic overreach. I mean, whatever. RDJ remains mum as ever, which is part of the fun, and so you can make up your own mind.

My mind: I appreciate that the “remix” of The Bug’s Run The Place Red is a drillcore dream, adding a nonstop heartbeat drum rush to the track, but unlike Aphex’s best remixes, there’s no real recontextualizing of the music – if you know the song, it’s there in full, it’s now just been given this insane beat. …Which is kind of the like the drillcore equivalent of any given remix which just adds a beat and lets the track play out. I’m underplaying the work here, but ultimately, this isn’t the most inventive stuff to me. And that accessibility is then rather hilariously paired with two absolute noise workouts – the Ktpa tracks. If you’re not into noise – which I was not when I first had this EP – these are painful. Just feedback, and squelching, and no identifiable patterns, or rhythms. There’s been constant chatter to determine if these are actually data files. But as the years have gone on and I’ve listened to more stuff in this realm, data file or not, these are very listenable, and have a lot of interesting texture. However, though RDJ has covered much in his career, I don’t think we look to him as a composer of noise, in general, and so this feels a bit weird presented in this form. As part of a fuller album of such explorations (like a flip side of Ambient Works), or even sneaked into a more recognziable Aphex / AFX set, there could be a lot of value. As the B-side to a pretty mundane single, though, it’s bizarre.

So that 1-star represents all of that, to me: that there’s fun or interesting work, here, but not propped up in a way that makes either one feel special, or engaging, and relegates the disc to something of a joke – here’s a poppy single; here’s a kneejerk reaction to poppy singles – when, ideally, we could take the material a bit more seriously.