ushup Edge comes on an unprinted disc in an otherwise empty jewel case, each adorned only with a rudimentary sticker featuring a picture of a sheep and text to the effect that it was “written and produced by Karen Tregaskin” and published by Chrysalis. No tracklisting. It looks like a homemade CD.
A quick search through MySpace, however, reveals several related sites suggesting the involvement of Brian Tregaskin and Pat Tregaskin, and claiming that Karen is an artist who specializes in “transparent watercolors of rural Devon scenes.” Brian Tregaskin also has two more MySpace pages, where his name is misspelled, each slightly different but all claiming that Brian makes “Electro / Techno / Hardcore.” There’s another page for The Tuss which has the genres as “Techno / Techno / Techno.” The first Brian Tregaskin MySpace page lists the following as ‘band members’; “Richard D James, Robbie Martin, Mike Podolak, Brian Tregaskin.”
Richard D. James. That’s Aphex Twin, to you and me. Rephlex is his label. He is from Cornwall. The Tuss is Cornish slang for erection. Tregaskin, as much as it sounds like anything, sounds like a Cornish surname. The music on Rushup Edge sounds, from a certain angle, not unlike the music released on the Analord series of 12”s, which were compiled on CD last year as Chosen Lords.
I may be sticking my neck out here, but the Tuss might just be the first Aphex Twin “album” (at only six tracks and 32 minutes in length) to be released in some six years. Brian Tregaskin claims, both profusely and profanely, not to be Richard D. James, though. Five minutes with Google tells you that lots and lots of people think he’s lying.
To be honest I don’t really care whether the Tuss is or isn’t Richard D. James—I’m just relieved that the most interesting thing about Rushup Edge isn’t the mystery, but the music.
Because if this is Richard D. James (and it seems likely—a Guardian article suggests it must be his work as it features an insanely rare Yamaha GX1 synth) then it knocks spots off his last “real” album, 2001’s patchy, seemingly-randomly-sequenced double-CD Drukqs (which may or may not have simply been a collection of random tracks that Richard D. James found at the back of his cupboard).
Essentially Rushup Edge is totally the kind of isolationist, anti-trend techno you’d expect Richard D. James to come up with in 2007; his sound palette and his ear for melodic disjunction is far, far more accomplished and cohesive than your average rural-bedroom-techno-ist’s debut; the first track, which Amazon suggests is called “Synthacon 9,” is over six minutes in length but whizzes by in a haze of synaesthetic contours and patterned beats. Track 4, which might be called “Rushup I Bank 12,” trails a delicately beautiful piano line through the first half of the synth / beat / noise / semi-chaos; there aren’t many composers who can manage that kind of juxtaposition.
Sure, there’s nothing quite as barmy/genius/crossover as “Windowlicker” or “Come to Daddy,” but Richard D. James has made his money and had his hijinks in the public eye—if he cared about statements and shock tactics in the way that he used to, he’d not be so keen to mask his identity. Except, of course, that this might just be one big joke anyway...
But I digress. I don’t know if Rushup Edge is groundbreaking—I’m not sure what if anything is in 2007—but it’s certainly very, very good, regardless of whether it is or isn’t what it seems to be. The ‘sticker’ on the disc itself, for instance, is revealed on close inspection to be standard commercial CD printing rather than a cheap adhesive label, and the disc itself is programmed with CD Text. The clues are there.