Aphex Twin @ Enmore, Sydney (2/3/12)

Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin (amongst his many other monikers), was a bit of a miracle selection for the Future Music Festival line-up. A legend in electronic music as well as a known recluse, Aphex Twin’s sounds sprawl far and wide: ranging from the gentle techno of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 to the raw DnB of Come to Daddy.

Don’t expect gentle though. AFX has been tearing through the UK since the early 90’s: Imagine abandoned warehouses with speaker stacks to the roof, huge metallic mixers and consoles, and inflatable teddy bears bearing his mutated face being launched into the crowd – all until about seven the next morning.

To work the crowd, Victim opened with the sort of dubstep he’s brought to our shores previously through nights like VOID. Don’t worry though, it’s legit dubstep: this guy lived in London. Adding to the support, Australia’s own Mark Pritchard played some of his Harmonic313, wonky hip-hop tunes as well as a fine selection of DnB.

At last, it was Aphex Twin’s turn. James began with some of his usual synth, until cut-up drum breaks ripped through soon enough and vocals, sometimes from James Brown and sometimes from Public Enemy, drifted through. But behind the giant metal panels and visual projections, we couldn’t see RDJ himself.

That having said, you can’t review Aphex Twin with a full setlist ID. It was difficult to recognise anything he played, and that was the beauty of it. RDJ played a mix of his own work and some severely mangled tunes from Britain’s backlog, but mixing it up with newer tunes from guys like the USA’s Machinedrum. The night was an onslaught of techno and dnb, the crowd maybe not going crazy enough: still, the audience had mixed jeers of “Where the bloody hell is he?” and “What the fuck is this?”

Then, the photographers were ushered out, the lasers started flooding the crowd and people went insane. The twisted Chris Cunningham visuals and 90s Windows screensaver effects blasted at the metal shields on stage, while the mutated face became superimposed onto live images of the front crowd. The crowd hollered and whooped as age-old icons of Australia like Nikki Webster and Gough Whitlam got the same AFX treatment, as well as our current pollies.

There’s something about the Enmore not suited to a rave like this. Maybe the size, the mediocre sound system, or the seated tiers: and that’s no doubt the result of being a “festival sideshow”. Next time, we ought to treat an icon like Aphex Twin with a proper club to suit his sound and his crowd.

After a noisy end, the crowd roared and whistled for an encore, but he’s a DJ, and DJs don’t do encores. For us, he made a brief hour-long set feel like a warehouse rave til dawn.