Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1996) (1 Viewer)

rettucs

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I was surprised and not surprised at how much I ended up liking this. Not surprised from the point of view that theres lots of other Aphex Twin stuff that I really like. Surprised because I ended up liking it a lot more than my first listen suggested I might.

I first heard of Aphex Twin in the mid-90s while at college. 2 of my best mates were mad into their music. Both of them were big fans of electronic/ambient music and it was them that got me listening to the Orb, Orbital, Sven Vath, Plaid, etc. One of them gave me a mix tape of stuff he was into. There were 2 Aphex Twin songs on it; 'Heliosphan' and 'We Are the Musicmakers'. There was a bunch of other stuff on there but it was these 2 tracks that stood out for me. I asked my buddy the name of the album these were on cos I wanted to go out and get it. He told me 'Selected Ambient Works'. I went into HMV looking for it. Needless to say I came out with the wrong one (Volume II, as opposed to 85-92).

I actually dismissed that album at first. I listened, did not get it at all, and put it to the side. I didn't listen again for another few years. Someone on here once described that album as the aural equvalent of pouring sugar in your ears. I can't argue. Its a nice listen, but I haven't had the patience to spend a heap of time with it. I probably will at some point.

'85-92', on the other hand, now thats a hell of an album. Its the only album of his I could claim to know in any depth. And I guess, naturally, I was always gonna use that as a yardstick to measure this by. And style-wise, its not that different at all.

As an aside, this album came out when I was going into my 4th year in college. One of the 2 aforementioned mates decidied he would pull a 'Richard D James' face on his college ID card. And he did. And it was great. He had the hair, the nose, the mad eyes, the lot.

Anyway, the album.

The 'scattershot drums', a pretty appropriate description (kudos @prefuse), is disconcerting at first. You don't hear that a lot in other music so I guess its just something you wouldn't be used to. But I found myself getting used to. And now I'm wondering if, having listened to this a good few times, whether I'll find Syro any easier. I'll listen in a bit to find out.

At the heart of this album are some pretty amazing tunes. Its tempting to say that if you look past all the distractions, peel away the drums and the beats and the bleeps, it'll reveal complex, but catchy melodies, but that would be doing the songs a disservice. If catchy melodies, without bleeps and beats, are your thing, go listen to something else I reckon.

I know little about James' background. Specifically, about his musical background, whether he ever trained classically, whether he plays any traditional instruments, etc. For me, this album (or parts of this album) occupies that fuzzy space between electronic music and modern classical. Not all of it though. '4' has those nice strings, but the overlaid bleeps make it sound like a video-game soundtrack. The other song with with the obvious video-game thing is 'Fingerbib'. Its grand, but I wouldn't be as big a fan.

Some tunes do nothing for me at all. 'Cornish Acid' and 'Carn Marth', for example, but at least they're short so it isn't as offputting as if he had opted for extended versions. I find 'Peek82454201' really interesting. I love the contrast between the start and end of this track. How messy it sounds at the beginning, but starts to fade, and 'tidies' itself up by the end.

'To Cure a Weakling Child' sounds like some of the stuff he has on SAW II. One song in particular (the name escapes me) used a very similar sample of that sound thats intended to mimic a child's voice. I think its lovely.

Its the last 4 tracks that the real high point of the album though.

'Goon Gumpas' is too damn short. I could picture myself playing this at home really loud on a sunny summer's morning. Its lovely. But its too damn short. 'Yellow Calx' is a better tune than 'Green Calx' (from SAW 85-92 - what the fuck is a calx?). I love the suble organ sound. Its delicate, but its punctuated with those irregular beats. It works. Its great.

'Girl/Boy' song is the absolute highlight. This song is a 5-minute adventure. It sounds like an oboe or a viola in the background, then violins, playing a nice modern classical piece, but those beats. Then xylophone? Its almost like a battle between the 2. The beats, and the strings. At 3 mins the beats give up and we're presented with a minute of the most beautiful classical piece. Its fucking wonderful. A minute later, the beats return. I could listen to this over and over.

'Logan Rock Witch' reminds me of a tunes on SAW 85-92 (Schottkey, maybe). A really catchy melody with all sorts going on over it.

As with all music, some afficianados of electronic music analyse and over-analyse to the point where the enjoyment is taken out of it. A former work college of mine was very into his synths (build/refurbished his own, etc), and he'd listen to electronic music. I recall a coversation I once had with him about a Vangelis album that came out sometime in the 90s. He told me that it was going to be one of the most important albums of the modern age. I thought that interesting so told him I'd listen to it. He told me that I'd probably find it unlistenable - pretty fuckin derogratory comment really. I didn't bother in the end.

Anyway, my point is, if I listen to a tune and like what I hear, then great. If I don't like it I wouldn't be the type to try and evaluate the merits (or otherwise) of the technical nuances in some kind of effort to try and find something I like about it. Life's too short. I'm sure there's plenty of merit to the songs on the Richard D James album that I don't like. As they're short, I wouldn't be skipping over them when listening again. But I'll be looking forward to the tunes I do like a lot, most notable those last 4 songs.

I'll give this 3/5. I love the bits I like, but theres a bit of filler there too IMO.
 

rettucs

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'Girl/Boy' song is the absolute highlight. This song is a 5-minute adventure. It sounds like an oboe or a viola in the background, then violins, playing a nice modern classical piece, but those beats. Then xylophone? Its almost like a battle between the 2. The beats, and the strings. At 3 mins the beats give up and we're presented with a minute of the most beautiful classical piece. Its fucking wonderful. A minute later, the beats return. I could listen to this over and over.
For some reason 'Girl/Boy' song reminded me of this.


which is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.
 

hugh

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
 

travispickle

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
The Selected Ambient Works 85-92 that scutter mentioned is brilliant (that was my intro to AT) and I also like the Polygon Window album, Surfing on Sine Waves.
 

pavlos

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
The Come To Daddy EP (this version) Makes a great companion piece to this, I put the 2 of them along with this and this onto a CD years ago so they are all inextricably linked in my head.

SAW 85-92 is great, as mentioned before. Drukqs is good, but overlong, I think. I like most of his stuff, it's a rare week that something of his doesn't get listened to. Had Classics and I Care Because You Do on the way into work this morning.

I loved Syro, I think a lot of people saw it as a bit meh though.

Five stars for this album, by the way!
 

prefuse

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
There's some really good tracks on 26 mixes for cash.

 

prefuse

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This track from the chosen lords album is amazing.


It's like electronic music made by Satan
* I love the car chase bit @ 02:02
 

dunderhead

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
have mentioned this already but worth another mention. the soundcloud tracks he unleashed last year are full of gems. if you listen and like selected ambient works, these are definitely worth checking out. few playlists on youtube, here is one;

 

hugh

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I had a listen to Saw 92-95 earlier and while admittedly it was while I was doing something else, it didn't grab me that much - seemed a bit more "regular dance music" to me. I much preferred the bit of Druqz (?) that I checked out yesterday..
 

shitepipe

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I am enjoying this immensely. Feeling the urge to delve into the rest of his catalogue but it's a bit daunting. Any of the Aphexperts (see what I did there?) care to provide a quick rundown?
Haven't seen any shout outs for I Care Because You Do yet- probably my favourite after Selected Ambient Works II. SAW 87-92 is just too played out for me now, although its still undoubtedly a classic.

Some of the early EPs are great too- Polynomial C is an orchestral banger and you can't beat a bit of Didgeridoo on a beach at 6AM. But the On EP is possibly his highpoint- with a video produced by Jarvis Cocker no less.

As for the aliases, where to start... AFX is the most consistent- the run of 12 EPs in the late 2000s is up there with his best work- all collected on the Chosen Lords compilation. Honourable mention for the Analogue Bubblebath EP from the early 90s as well (from whence @nlgbbblbth got his name)

He released a few sneaky records as The Tuss in 2007- in a similar vein to the AFX tracks being released at the same time but well worth a listen:

And finally, for the times we live in- i love this remix of a cover of a classic
 

dunderhead

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Really like this album, 4/5.

(finding if I know the albums well, like this and VU, I don't give them the listens during the week. hoping for something new to me this week. way more aural craic)
 

MacDara

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Only got around to listening to this yesterday, sorry. I like the glitchy beats - I see jungle referenced but it's more obtuse than that, it's the kind of stuff Kid606 and Venetian Snares would do later. It's also less dense than I would have thought, the beats are stronger than the light melodies and the whole thing is over in half an hour. Would listen again, though.
 

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