Pure Apparition is a bumpy ride with some great moments. "Bleach" takes the emotional quality of techno artists like Scuba and pumps it up to epic levels, while "The Deal Set Adrift" sounds like a track by The Field that was buried alive and left to thump away beneath layers of dirt. The soaring melodies of "Tokyo" and the sparse lullaby "Only In Real" offer some breaks in the clouds, and centerpiece "Tibetan Moves" pulls everything off centre, built on wobbly drums that seem more concerned with disrupting the bars than actually keeping time. Waiting at the end of the journey is the title track, a rewarding hands-in-the-air anthem like little else Ridler has done before.
"Pure Apparition" would make a great closer, and suggests that Ridler has a knack for dance floor bangers. But he's not quite there yet, and the album's weaker points show that he's still figuring out how to work with dance music conventions. Take "Rude"—it's a slapdash set of slamming drums, coughing chords and acid basslines that sounds like an IKEA techno kit assembled without the instruction booklet. And the rave pastiche of "D.A.R.E.," while more soundly constructed, is uninspired enough to make you miss the days when he was doing weird things with eski beats.
What made Ridler's music exciting was the sense that you didn't know where it was going next, the feeling of the familiar being twisted into new shapes. There's some of that here, and Pure Apparition retains his tendency to go off on tangents, but the focus on techno-inspired rhythm suppresses the everything-at-once nature of his best work. In this new mode, sometimes he flourishes, other times he flounders, and mostly, he just sounds like he's getting used to it. The time Ridler spent away since the hard drive crash might have brought him some new inspiration, but it seems like he's got a little while to go before he's totally back on his feet.