A much-heralded "genius" whose main game these days is testing his fans' patience, Aphex Twin (a.k.a. AFX) followed his roundly (but unfairly) maligned 2001 album Drukqs with a deluge of vinyl-only singles made with a sort of back-to-basics mentality. The records came with a pricey leather case that made a big show of their status as records, but now AFX has edited the series down to Chosen Lords (Rephlex), a CD compiling 10 "Analord" tracks into something resembling a cohesive album. It's a strong album, too: Rolling with the kind of melodies that Aphex Twin favored in his heyday, it burrows into mysterious corners, whether the rhythms are frantic and jagged or smoothed-out like retro techno B
A Japanese artist with an eerily delicate touch, Takagi Masakatsu makes ambient music that drifts toward abstraction while surveying its roots in ever-earthly feeling. Journal For People (Carpark) is process-intensive and formally complex, but above all, it's beautiful. Snatches of acoustic guitar and piano flitter through clouds of hiccupping static, and robust melodies make the whole mix somehow both celebratory and sad. An accompanying DVD gives visual cues, from ink-etched birds sitting on a wire to slow-motion children swinging on an amusement-park ride in otherworldly light B+
The latest survey of Ghostly International, a rich, restless label from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Idol Tryouts Two features the kind of comely electronic music that has lit up an international scene not in need of American intervention. The first disc, dubbed "Avant-Pop," boasts murky rock, electro, and techno by Mobius Band, Matthew Dear, Lawrence, and the nicely beguiling Skeletons & The Girl-Faced Boys. Disc two proves the bigger surprise, though, for the way it refreshes the institutionalized idea of ambient music. A track by Terre Thaemlitz cribs the score of Risky Business, but the rest plays engaging endgames less beholden to history B
Out for a while but still trickling up from its self-released base, Lavender Diamond's four-song EP The Cavalry Of Light (lavenderdiamond.com) is as disarming as a brutalist noise record. That's a long way off, though: Over beds of gentle folk that evoke Vashti Bunyan with a tambourine, the Los Angeles band soars to the tune of Becky Stark, a milky singer whose sincerity and conviction make each song sound like the most important four minutes of her life.