An album like Drukqs is one that's almost silly to discuss. First off, the fans of Mr. Richard D. James aren't going to need any amount of positive reinforcement to go and purchse the disc, they simply will. Second, the people who didn't "get" his albums before probably aren't going to "get" this one either. It's one of those albums that is argued about not only before it's release, but as it's being released and probably for some time after. Not only that, but James knows all of the above things, and being the ongoing prankster that he is, enjoys confounding everyone from critics to fans and everyone in between.
Leading up to the release of the album, there were all kinds of rumours about it. Some have said that the release of the 2CD/4LP work is simply to end his contract fullfillment for Warp Records and that all the tracks are old releases that have simply been laying around on his computer harddrive (and for someone who has constantly said that he has hundreds, if not thousands of unreleased tracks, that's a distinct possibility), while others think that the scatterbrained release is simply another attempt to throw people off guard and keep living up to his label of being a somewhat mad genius (although the q&a session released to the press about a month before the album release was unfortunately stale and unfunny). After all, it was just over a year ago that he declared he had retired from releasing music (just after the release of his Windowlicker single), then he decides to drop this 30-track epic on everyone.
On a personal level, I've been excited about the release for quite some time. In the past I've been a fairly rabid fan of Aphex Twin and only downloaded a few tracks to preview this disc, but read all kinds of reviews and complaints on the disc. The main one I've heard is that the double-CD release simply seems too tossed-together. A lot of people have said that the majority of the tracks sound like ones that he's released before, and the other bits seem like noodly piano pieces created as filler for a release that probably should have been edited down a bit into one disc.
While I agree with some of the above sentiments (namely that the release could have been made into something stellar by chopping out some bits from the 100+ minutes and cramming everything into a super solid 75-minute package), I'm also of the opinion that for all the hype and anti-hype, James is in fact very talented. Even when he's spinning his wheels (as he does in places on the release), the peel-out created is more spectacular than lots of other things out there.
As mentioned above, many of the tracks on the release are shorter, instrumental pieces played with only a piano or treated piano. Some of them are highly simple while others are more complex, and while they sometimes break the flow of things, at other times they're a welcome breath between slamming drill and bass workouts (the amazing "Nanou2" is a particular standout that closes out the entire release). In regards to those more hardcore workouts, "54 Cymru Beats" is pumped full of meaty beats offset by goofy rave shouts while the ending of "Mt. Sait Michel & Saint Michaels Mount" staggers the beats so fast and chopped that it will literally make your head spin if played at loud volumes.
Elsewhere, "Bbydhyonchord" and "Meltphace 6" recall I Care Because You Do era work, while "Taking Control" injects some totally old-school 8-bit sounds into the mix while a robotic voice chants out the title of the track. Some of the best tracks on the release, though, are ones that go in even different directions. "Gwely Mernans" is a thick, ambient track that sweeps stereophonically and recalls the creepiest moments of his Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 release while "Gwarek 2" chops up screams into a strange audio stew before laying down some more dark soundscapes. Either track are ripe for another Chris Cunningham collaboration, and hopefully we'll get one out of the release.
In the end, it's still just another Aphex Twin release, which means that it's definitely not going to appeal to a lot people, but some will go rabid over it. While there are a couple of tracks that are completely amazing, the album as a whole could have used a little better sequencing to make it more tight. A lot of the solo piano pieces are almost interchangeable interludes, but there are a couple that stand above the rest. With the complete smattering of styles, it serves as a decent overview to the wide variety of noise that Aphex Twin does, but if you're just getting started out, head for the already mentioned I Care Because You Do album or his Richard D. James album. Will James retire now, or is this simply a new start? Nobody knows, but judging from the cover artwork (which he also did), he's got a decent eye for design as well.