Eight years, eight long years, since this mystery man has performed in the United States. A man known for his long hiatuses between albums and even shows, Aphex Twin headlined this year’s Day for Night festival in Houston, Texas and he brought one for the ages. Even adding to the secrecy of Aphex Twin was him being cloaked behind a digital display, which in the beginning left some people wondering “Is he even really here?” or “Is he not going to show?”
The set started with ghostly laughter in the background and a few moments later, the festival cameras peered over the display, showing that in fact, yes, Richard D. James truly was there. He stared down with a blank look of focus on his face the entire time, paying attention to every little detail and only peering up at the crowd once during the set.
This pioneer of electronic music turned those haunting laughs in the beginning into grimy and slow beats with heavy-hitting bass. The crescendo built creepily, bringing the crowd up to an elated and industrial-feeling state with heavier and faster rhythms. As the set was starting to peak and everyone was lifted higher and higher, it’s like Aphex Twin summoned whatever God(s) that you believe in and brought down a monsoon of cold wind and rain. Angled showers battered the skies and lit up the already immense lasers and lights with sparkles, like a thousand fireflies glittering the night sky. No one left though; this only added to the magical ambience as a full-on rave ensued in the moments after. When the rain subdued slightly, out came the cold. The people dressed for the warm weather immediately regretted their decision and the only solution to warm up after that was to dance. You can dance, everyone can dance, especially during a time like this.
The final leg of the set was even more merciless, with glitchier and heavier tracks, and within a few moments, it was over. Just like that. After a two hour set, Aphex Twin finally came out from behind his shroud and gave two big thumbs up to the crowd before he disappeared backstage, never to be seen again. Did it live up to all the hype and secrecy stretching eight years of being incognito from the United States? I’d say so.
As if Aphex Twin wasn’t enough, Day for Night intrigued its audiences with the likes of ODESZA, Bjork, Kaskade, Banks, Chet Faker (Nick Murphy), Travis Scott, Run The Jewels, Butthole Surfers, Little Dragon, and many, many more. No matter the time of the day, there was sure to be a celebration going on somewhere.
Light and sound seemed to be the theme of Day for Night, with art installations that seeped into almost every sense of your mind and body. Even the stark coldness inside the warehouse added to the eerie, yet beautifully mesmerizing, works of art. Flashing and waving lights were juxtaposed against complete darkness, grids of red lasers moved to ambient sounds and cackles, and all of this combined created a new definition for the word “art.”
Day for Night is a futuristic visual and audio arts festival that is backdropped by the city of Houston’s downtown buildings and monuments. This creates a look that moves towards a forthcoming era in life and time by combining futuristic architecture next to old-world citadels. The property was the former Barbara Jordan Post Office building, a 16-acre venue reminiscent of an old German techno warehouse scene and all of this combined completed the entire atmosphere and feeling of the festival.
Welcome to the most visually and audibly stimulating event around—a complete sensory overload. Can they top Aphex Twin and this year’s fest? It will be tough but we shall see.