Astrobotnia Part 01 Review

BBC Review

IDM action from Rephlex's latest signing Astrobotnia. Or is it really another...

Olli Siebelt 2002

Theres been a lot of speculation about this release here at BBC Music HQ over the last few weeks. Having been introduced to this little gem through our friends over at Rephlex, there has been one question that's been on our minds since we first whacked this little baby on the CD player:

Is this or isn't this a secret release from Richard D. James masquerading under a different name?

Recent rumours suggested that it's actually fellow Rephlex recording artist Ovuca, as was apparently announced before a recent Rephlex night in New York; yet scanning the various message boards and newsgroups on the internet, it seems that nobody wants to rule out some involvement from Mr. James, either due to the sheer similarity in sound or perhaps from a desperate need to hear something new from the Cornish superstar.

Rephlex told us that it's not actually Aphex (the album would have been released under the AFX title if it was, apprently) but rather the work of one Kristian Richards (apparently dispelling the Ovuca rumour), who seems to be a new artist on the roster making his debut on the label. Regardless of how good a marketing move you might think all of this secrecy and tomfoolery is, the fact remains that Astrobotnia Part 01 is a pretty credible and interesting release even though it sounds a lot like something Richard D James would have been involved with.

Released in a series of three parts (2 CDs and one 12" from the looks of things), it kicks off with "Lightworks", a beautiful track whos backbeat is the sampled live recording of fireworks exploding. It then runs through a series of lovely IDM pieces, most of which are accentuated with all the styles you're likely to find on most releases of this genre. We've been here before - the chord patterns, the sound of the ambient pads, the choppy breakbeats, the sampled and processed dialogue - it's Ovuca, Bogdan Raczynski, Aphex Twin, Polygon Window all in one.

If it's not James, then someone seems to be mimicking his style in more ways than one yet. One of the things we always loved about the Aphex Twin is his constant evolution of sound and rhythm. With half the world stuck writing badly attempted re-versions of Selected Ambient Works 1 or Druqks, youve got to wonder why Rephlex haven't made more of an effort to stay away from this stereotypical sound.

It's not that it's bad, its just that it's not at all groundbreaking. Perhaps we're expecting too much?

In any case, you know pretty much what you're getting with these releases (Parts 02 and 03 follow a similar path) and that's probably a pretty good thing considering the following that both the label and Mr. James currently enjoy. For most, Astrobotnia should easily suffice as excellent and satisfying filler until the next Aphex release and who knows when that will be...

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