Okay, for those of you not in the loop on this, here’s our mystery: Are the Tuss actually the one and only Richard D. James — the Aphex Twin, the Polygon Window, the AFX — or just a few blokes from the same locality (Cornwall, U.K.) on the same label (Rephlex) with the same exclusive publisher (Chrysalis) and who share the same predilection for frantic composition and analog electronics as you know who? Well, there certainly seems to be a lot of evidence to suggest that it is. For one thing, the Tuss reportedly uses a Yamaha GX1 synthesizer, an instrument we know James uses frequently and is so rare that only a handful exist in the world (fewer than ten were made by Yamaha). For another, one Tuss track (“Devon,” currently unreleased) has allegedly been traced to a 2005 live set conducted by, guess who, one Richard David James.
If all this sounds suspect, that’s because it is. I mean, even the cover story is a little nebulous here. The disc names Karen Tregaskin as writer and producer, yet the official website suggests that Brian Tregaskin, her husband, is the primary artist. Oh, and get this: Not only is Aphex Twin listed as a quote-unquote influence on the quote-unquote band, but James himself is actually named as a member of the Tuss.
FUBAR? You betcha. For now, though, we have no choice but to play along and assume that, at most, James is merely a constituent of the outfit, and Rushup Edge is nothing more than the prescient debut of some six British “braindance”/IDM musicians who call themselves the Tuss. I’ll only offer this simple caveat: I believe it’s a lock that this is James, but in the same way I believe Oswald probably had help and Michael Jackson is a child molester — no hard evidence, just an informed hunch.
In the end it’s a shame there is so much malarkey surrounding this release, because it only overshadows what is really a very good record. “Synthacon 9” is our entry point, a six-minute acid-house track that is richly textured and explosive, working your senses the same way low-level electroconvulsive therapy might a mental patient. Perfectly sequenced right on top of this is “Last Rushup 10,” which shifts its shape so effortlessly, bouncing and colliding themes with such controlled frenzy it makes the notion that this is really the work of programming virgins just damn near impossible to believe. No one in IDM outside James is this fluent in the language of composition, or so good at scoring the fragile psychosis of daily life. Simply put, not too many people in the world are capable of something like this.
After track two the album loses steam, but that’s not to say there’s nothing interesting here. “Rushup I Bank 12” has its moments, particularly when the central melody rolls into the song’s lush synth line, a nice sonic glaze that interacts perfectly with the high tempos that drive the track. A short piano melody periodically shakes things up even further here, but it’s so well integrated it never really distracts.
As effective as publicity stunts are at electrifying the press (if, in fact, this is one), ultimately they just suck for everybody — even the perpetrators. If the Tuss is actually for real, then the musicians have really tripped over their own dicks here, because although the music is very good, most of us are just too busy decrypting the mystery. If, on the other hand, this is James, well, it’s a neat little trick, I guess, but the music still gets short-changed. Whatever. Here’s the only thing you really need to know: Rushup Edge is a fine album, and if you enjoy IDM you should probably pick this record up. Is it Richard D. James? Yeah, probably, I would say so. Should we really give a hoot? No, probably not. Maybe this is James/the Tuss/Tregaskin’s lesson to all of us.