Published Mar 19, 2019For Toronto label Suction Records, Dutch artist Erik Jong (aka RX-101) must seem like a gift that keeps on giving. Having recorded hundreds of high-quality Aphex Twin-esque tracks between 1997 and 1999 before apparently ceasing to make music altogether, Jong only recently uploaded his output to Soundcloud, where it soon came under intense, Tuss-like scrutiny from various Aphex fan sites.
Jong briefly surfaced to lay claim to his work, but then happily faded from sight, leaving Suction the rights to comb through his archives for all the best bits. Four EPs and two compilations of Jong's classic '90s techno/IDM later, and the label has returned with Dopamine, a collection that hews most closely to early Aphex Twin albums like Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Surfing On Sine Waves.
It would be unduly harsh to describe Jong's work as just breathless Aphex Twin fan service—even if the similarities are striking. There's a lot of μ-Ziq in there as well for instance, and one can intuit a close familiarity with the early Warp and Rephlex rosters in general. Yes, Jong may be overshadowed by his influences sometimes, but it's hard to believe his work wouldn't have found release alongside them at the time if given the chance.
Indeed, Dopamine is a pleasantly bouncy set of old-school ambient techno, featuring all your favourite analogue gear from the era, and while some of the drum sounds may seem almost too quaint these days, they pop out of their time capsule unabashedly, refreshingly free of irony or meta use. Jong's feathery synth pads, playful bass lines, and often surreal melodies seem more timeless however, and luckily there are plenty of these on Dopamine — "Search Path 101" is a great example, its blending synth melodies invoking that enticingly mysterious quality particular only to the best '90s IDM. Those were the days!
That said, if you've already lived through those days, Dopamine can't help but sound a bit derivative at times. But if you didn't, and are currently into artists like Canada's own Paranerd, who pursued a similar vibe on 2017's excellent Silktrops, or England's Daniel Avery, who has lately updated these classic synth sounds very effectively for his own epic take on ambient techno, this collection of Jong's work is definitely worthwhile, a history lesson plucked from the present. (Suction)