Weirdcore: Enter the vortex
It’s hard to think of a work more self-explanatory than Collapse. An EP from Aphex Twin with visuals by Weirdcore, the project is the latest in the ongoing collaboration between Richard D. James and the London-based visual artist. The visual realm created for Collapse is as it claims to be: a computer-generated world created solely with the purpose to fold in on itself. An act of auto-destructive art and, if watched on a loop as Weirdcore suggests – if your brain can handle it – an act of birth and death ad infinitum.
“We wanted to see what it would be like for an AI to trip,” Weirdcore explains, discussing the collaboration. Weirdcore not only spent most of the first half of 2018 working on this project, but also on the whole 360 experience of its release, including its mysterious posters. Optical illusions appeared everywhere from the underground to storefronts to the hanging foliage adorning otherwise innocuous Los Angeles buildings. “People were really trying to decode them, but it meant nothing at all like what people were suggesting,” he confirms wryly.
In true Aphex fashion, the magnetism of the pair’s work lies in this impenetrable nature. They first worked together in 2009 on the frenetic lightshow for Aphex Twin’s Bloc performance, but their most notable work together has been their most derisive. Aphex Twin’s 2017 Field Day set saw Weirdcore use facial mapping to turn the crowd into celebrities – or, anti-celebrities – like cast members of TOWIE and José Mourinho. He superimposed their faces over stock images and projected the results onto the towering screens that surround James’ mixing desk. Elsewhere, an ogling Aphex-cheerleader hybrid figure hovered around obfuscated error messages. Weirdcore employed this same enigmatism when designing this month’s cover of Crack Magazine. A 2018 update on the iconic Richard D. James album art released over two decades ago, he refuses to go into much detail on the inspiration behind the process, but does say he thinks the cover is “quite striking. Less is more, really.”
Geography also plays an important role in Aphex Twin’s mythology, with elements of the Cornish landscape appearing throughout the Collapse visuals. Weirdcore got a personal tour of the unique Aphex homeland from one of James’ old school friends – a kind of “guided Richard D. James excursion”. Collapse is, as the imagined neural network of an artificial brain would be, built on the convergence of digital and environmental minutiae (they both loved the psychedelic tone and texture of “yellow moss on rocks”). It’s a world spiralling and coming apart at the seams under the weight of its own open-source sprawl.
Like any good narcotic experience – or bad one, come to think of it – Collapse comes in waves: “The first layer is an amphetamine trip, the second is a pure K-hole, and then we get onto something like MDMA.”
And while Weirdcore personally didn’t take the rare opportunity of a prolonged and intense trip for “research” (“It’s been a while since I was in one of those states myself,” he confirms) the unique combination of “lack of sleep that comes with having a new baby” and moving his life across London make for a not dissimilar plane of existence. The kind of low-key amitriptyline hit where the world you recognise is still there, but fuzzy at the edges. “Something like the feeling between being asleep and awake,” he admits. A hypnagogic landscape that makes for as close a parallel as you can reasonably hope for without actually dropping pills. And, of course, he rightly points out: “You never really forget that feeling anyway.”
Working with James is clearly a unique and, in many ways, disquieting experience. Weirdcore went months with little to no instruction, and in typical Aphex style – on finally getting together with Warp – found that the label “knew about as much if not less” than he did. It’s a collaboration that Weirdcore is clearly keen to continue, however, with a fully immersive VR version of the project currently in the work. Whether or not androids dream of electric sheep, Weirdcore certainly teaches us that they trip in volatile colour.