Richard D. James has developed an enviable image of a reluctant star in his incarnation as Aphex Twin, and it’s always made sense. Electronica artists don’t need to be faceless, and James isn’t as obsessive about his identity as some people are, but his aim has always been to steer people’s attention to his music rather than to himself. And that music demands extra attention.
Though he’s produced danceable material, he’s also made a lot of stuff that is just plain out there, which is why it’s difficult to explain why he deserves to be a headliner at one of the biggest rock festivals in the world. His set at the Green Stage on Saturday—traditionally the one day of the weekend that is guaranteed to sell out for simply logistical reasons—was an organic, growing thing that didn’t necessarily rely on beats to draw the listener in. It was all shifting textures abetted by complementary visuals (none of him, of course) that would occasionally turn into something stimulating, even exciting, but never remained there long enough to get a dance pulse going.
The highlight, in fact, was when red lasers sketched patterns on the side of the mountain facing the stage. As was true all day, the rain came and went, and about 45 minutes into the set there was a brief downpour that obviously affected people’s relation to the music. People had gotten used to the rain, but it was still a distraction.