Richard D. James is one of my favorite musicians. I first found out about him when I listened to Druqks as a 12 year old, and ever since then I've gradually listened to the bulk of his work. In an impulsive tribute I've decided to review all 70 million of his releases.
I'm excited to do this project because, imo, RDJ has had one of the longest, most diverse and interesting careers of an electronic musician, and his music makes me go happy, but before that I guess I have to review his awkward early projects too. Ok, ok, maybe I'm being too harsh, but it really is surreal listening to these early projects after being so familiar with his later work. Sent to Warp in 1990, and only published 4 years later once Richard's name was marketable, the project bears little resemblance to anything else in Aphex's catalogue before and since. Uncharacterically minimalist, all four of these tracks chug along on this hokey beat for 6 minutes while a few cool noises and the occassional soothing ambience gradually layer on top. It's not bad, really; at it's best, the EP hits upon some hypnotic rhythm in it's repetition, but the tracks on here still take forever to actually get going, and as a whole the thing can get kinda dull to listen to. Makes nice background music, though.
What I'm just curious about is, out of all the stuff in his back catalogue, why is this the stuff RDJ decided to send to Warp? I listened to all his Soundcloud releases, a number of which go back into the 80s, and a lotttt of them are way more creative and gripping than the stuff on here. Maybe he thought that stuff would be too experimental and turn the label off? I dunno.
This recently got rerelased on the offical Aphex Twin site along with some bonus tracks scraped from the aformentioned Soundcloud account. They mostly follow the same pattern as the rest of the EP, except for "gak5 e, +3" which has a quirkier, catchier beat and a pretty ambience on top that makes me feel like I'm spelunking. Wahoo!
The first official Richard D. James release, and the first release on the Rephlex label, and already the musicianship has massively approved. The first track is pretty normal dance music, but MUCH groovier and more driving than the GAK stuff. Gets my foot tapping!
The second track is where things get weird. They vary by pressing; on the original the B-side is all woozy-feeling and has this thumping, distorted beat, but my fav is the longer track on the 1995 reprinting with this African-influenced drum pattern and the silly funky melody over it, it's so fun to listen to! It's also more organic and non-linear than any of the other tracks I've talked about so far, so it's a bit closer to the stereotypical Aphex Twin sound. None of these two B-sides are actually 4 minutes and 43 seconds long as the vinyl art claims, by the way. There's a third printing without a second track; avoid that one, if you can. I know I just claimed this early stuff was awkward last review but this is definitely an enjoyable listen! Check it out... or else >:o)
Originally released under the Aphex Twin moniker, this is where Richard's catalogue starts, but like for real this time. It's the first under two of his most popular monikers, it got radioplay, and it definitely sounds more like the rest of his stuff. The title track is a classic and the beat switch made me go :O when I first listened to it, but I think the highlight of the EP is "Entrance to Exit" which has a cool sample of this operatic singing and crazy alarm noises all over the place and the same percussion he would later use in "Phloam," hoo-ah! "Mental" or "aggro" as Aphex would say if he did one of those Words and Music tapes for this. The other two tracks are more predictable pieces of acid that don't really do much, but those two tracks! <3
More ravey than the last one. Not as big a fan as this one, unfortunately. Digeridoo, which appears on this as "Aboriginal Mix" I've never really liked; ditto for the last track here, which is just kinda farty and aimless. The second track,though, I enjoy a lot! Super catchy synth riff and it has this neat sound effect, it sounds like something that would play at a rave in one of those obscure cyberpunk full motion video PC games from the 90s which is a vibe I always enjoy. Listen to that one!
Hohoho, hehehe! Interesting footnote in his career. The base dnb remix of the Pac-Man here doesn't really interest me that much as much as I respect it's place in culture, but the remixes here!!!(!!) The Hi-Score and Yum Yum remixes are tons of fun, prob some of the few remixes on an Aphex Twin release that are actually remixes and not just some track James dusted off from his hard drive. Really really 90s sounding, but that's like the opposite of a problem in my book when it comes to ravey electronic music.
Whoops!! I was gone for a hot moment there but now I am back! I remembered my password, I still know how to do basic stuff in HTML, finally Izzy's dream to review every Richard D. James release will CONTINUE to be realized. I'm typing this all directly into the code though so I gotta be brief in case my wi-fi like cuts out in the middle of a paragraph. I have like a whole internal philosophy about this stuff and it involves me typing all this stuff directly into the code of the website and I don't feel like explaining it because it'd take too long and I don't have the vocabulary for high-level language like that yet.
But anyway, this was THE big aphex release, and it still is. I mean, the youtube upload of this has like eighty million views, a lot of my friends think Xtal is one of the best tracks ever, the guy from Radiohead talked about this album once, it's probably the most popular electronic album out there. Which is always a weird thought to me, that Aphex Twin is like the most popular non-pop electronic artist out there, because his music is pretty weird right? Well, then again, I'm always a firm believer that people have broader tastes than we assume, so I suppose that's just proof. Most of this stuff isn't ambient ambient, more ambient techno with some tracks that actually go really HAM like Green Calx and Ptolemy. What do I think of it though? Well, honestly.... it's good but it's probably one of my least fav albums under the Aphex name. Songs like "Delphium" and "Ptolemy" are dope and I think the few straightforward ambient traxcxks on there are great, but the slow, deep, scarey tracks like Schottkey 7th Path and Hedlphelyephm... nah, these don't really do anything for me unless I'm in a mood. Heliosphan and Xtal I'm not that hot on either. Everything else though is sublime and if you're like everyone else on the planet you probably strongly disagree with me and think Heliosphan and Xtal are the best tracks ever and I'm just stupid. What I'm saying is, if you've never listened to it, listen to it and you'll probably like it better than I will! Btw, does anyone remember that fan video for Schottkey on youtube that had like the 9/11 footage in it? I should do a review page for all those fanmade Warp music videos some day.
The first of his releases to use that new nifty cyberpunk looking logo he got that was only used like twice and the second time on SAWII it was all distorted so that only like half counts. This continues the lo-fi sound Aphex explored on the Digeridoo EP (which I forgot to look at, oops) which I'm kinda sad he hasn't pursued as much in his career. All four tracks here crunch, bite, gnaw, spew, grind, gear, knob, shear, repeat repeat repeat... the most famous song here is Polynomial-C which has that pretty synth riff but Tamphex is my personal fav on here, because it both has some pretty noises and cool sampling AND bumps hard. I like jumping around to music and that gets my energy WAY up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The other two songs on here aren't that interesting though and are really repetitive and aren't very good.