Nobody is quite as big an asshole as Richard D. James. In real life, yes, he is fairly brusque, but musically he falls just short of maddening eclecticism, into a not-very-sweet spot where every record has listeners screaming “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US!?!” at his anonymous SoundCloud account.
Cheetah is named for an obscure British synthesizer maker, whose ms800 model features prominently throughout the first four songs, followed by the Cirklon hardware sequencer. Yes, this is him showing off both his knowledge of and prowess with a variety of vintage electronic instruments. He can use the Cheetah’s breathy wavetable synthesis to make songs like “Cheetah 7b,” which sounds like tropical house with a concussion, and the Cirklon to make “Cirklon 3” and “Cirklon 1,” Kraftwerk gone free jazz. That the song titles are filenames just furthers my suspicion that he’s fucking with us, but subtly.
Yes, Cheetah is better than most electronic music releases, but as with any Aphex Twin release there’s always going to be the nagging question of just what we’re hearing. Is Cheetah a joke or an experiment? Is it postmodern or sincere? Do we dance to it or contemplate it? Only Richard D. James knows.