It’s fairly common knowledge that The Tuss aka Karen Tregaskin aka Brian Tregaskin is in fact Richard D James. Rushup Edge is a short, six track album that has got the Aphex fanboy brigade breathless with excitement. The thing is, though, the whole thing sounds like it could have been recorded a dozen years ago. Both “Synthacon 9” and “Last Rushup 10” are brisk acid tracks that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on I Care Because You Do. That’s not necessarilly a bad thing – both tunes are strong. But it is indicative of how James’ has moved from being a musical innovator and revolutionary into being almost a nostalgic standard bearer for an exciting era of electronic music now passed. “Shiz Ko E” gives the same kind of queasy take on eighties electro that “Windowlicker” did – even down to the Commodore 64 synthesised voice and rubber band bass.
“Rushup I Bank 12” opens the second half of the album, an urgent breakbeat tune featuring a mangled piano arpeggio. It’s a fantastic track that harks back to the days when hardcore was morphing into early jungle. “Death Fuck” is an atmospheric drill ‘n’ bass piece that gives new life into a tired (and often tiresome) form. The beats are tempered with what sounds like a squelching 303, and all manner of little melodic vignettes are chucked into the mix. It’s the only track of the six that actually sounds like it was recorded this century. Having said that, it’s the tune I like the least – it’s just too busy. The album wraps with “Goodbye Rute”, a mid-tempo, melodic IDM piece that harks back to the classic mid nineties Warp sound. It’s lush – a bona fide Aphex classic.
Perhaps I’m expecting too much. For five years from 1992 to 1997, virtually everything that James did was astonishing, and pushed electronic music into a myriad of new directions. Everyone eventually caught up. Rushup Edge still probably couldn’t have been made by anybody else. The sounds James achieves are extraordinary, and the level of detail in the tracks shows a deftness of touch that he’s never lost. But this is music that consolidates achievements rather than striking out for new ones. These criticisms could only be made of someone of James’ calibre. For anyone else, Rushup Edge would be considered a career highpoint. It is an excellent work, and I feel like a heel to be grumbling at all. No Aphex fan is going to listen to this album and not like it a lot. And I guess that’s what matters most.