Various Artists

Twenty five years old recently Warp’s Artificial Intelligence compilation was a deliberate attempt to make a dance music compilation that wasn’t for dancing to but for listening to at home. It also led to the creation of IDM, a term I still find a bit mystifying and pointless. This is machine music, techno and ambient combining, with groove and melody. The list of artists is second to none, a double vinyl example of Warp’s finger being firmly on the robotic pulse in 1992- Autechre, Speedy J, B12, Richie Hawtin (as UP!), Black Dog (as I.A.O.) and Aphex Twin stand out.

The opening track came from the magic hands and brain of Richard D. James- calling himself The Dice Man with a track called Polygon Window (he’d soon go on to release as Polygon Window just to check people were keeping up ). Even among the high quality of the various artists work on A.I. and his own back catalogue at this point Polygon Window stands out, fizzing and buzzing with ideas and invention. What’s more, you could dance to this if the mood took you.

Polygon Window

Lichen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, as Jane Austen never said, that Apex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 isn’t a patch on Volume 1. It’s difficult admittedly to gauge what Jane Austen might have made of Aphex Twin- he is entirely outside her cultural frames of reference and doesn’t wear breeches. However it is also a truth that every Aphex Twin album contains at least one moment of genius (and I don’t chuck the word genius around very often). The moment of beauty genius on Selected Ambient Works 2 is this…

Untitled 20 (Lichen)

As an album Selected Ambient Works 2 seems to take delight in being even more obtuse than usual. The songs, twenty four of them on the cd edition and one more on the vinyl, are all called Untitled except for track thirteen, Blue Calx. Each track had a corresponding image. Track 20’s corresponding image is Lichen. The gently ascending synth chords, slightly wobbling at the edge of distortion, the ever so slighty downbeat turn at just after two minutes, the return of the ascending chords with some crackle, to the fade out are all fucking magical.

Alberto Balsam

The weather’s gone horrible. The political situation is, um, tense, with no guarantee of a good outcome despite the surge of the last two weeks. The view on the TV is depressing beyond belief. Time for one of Aphex Twin’s most inventive and feel good tracks- Alberto Balsam floats by on a lovely warm synth melody. The rhythm track is stop-start percussion. I read somewhere that the hi-hat is a cigarette lighter being clicked, which makes me love it even more. Some of Richard D James’ stuff is brain rattling techno and fried acid and some of it is aural balm. This is the latter.

Alberto Balsam

Avril

April 14th saw a load of Aphex Twin articles published across the net, in honour of his 2001 track Avril 14th. I had a vague plan to post Avril 14th but forgot about it so here I am, two days late.

Avril 14th

Avril 14th has been used in Hollywood films, sampled by Kanye West and streamed 38 million times. It is a beautiful, minimal piano piece, two and a bit minutes long, Erik Satie-like, that sounds like a robot has been left with a piano in the small hours.

This is Avril 14th slowed down by 1000% by Evan Chapman, twenty minutes of ambient noise.

Delphium

As various sites and magazines have noted in the last two days Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works is now twenty five years old. How something so progressive and futuristic can be quarter of a century old is just one of those headspinners you have to live with. Pick anything from its twelve tracks at random and find music bewilderingly beautiful that sounds like nothing else made between 1985 and 1992, music it is impossible to get tired of. Like this one…

Delphium

Someone on Youtube has set opener Xtal against these visuals creating a juxtaposition nightmare, beauty and horror.

Cheetah

If you’re in need of cheering up but feeling slightly unsettled at the same time you could do worse than spend the next eight minutes with the new song from Aphex Twin. The ep Cheetah is out soon including a cassette release. I could play that in my car. This song, Cirklon 3, marries some ambient synths, a clattering drum track and a distorted bass with some bleeps borrowed from computer games. The video was directed by twelve year old Ryan Wyer from Dublin and will freak you out slightly in places.

Xtal

Inside the sleeve or cd case that features the front cover pictured above can be found some of the most beautiful, inspiring and groundbreaking electronic music you will ever hear. Some of the song titles are bewildering and give little away- Xtal,Green Calx, Hedphelym- and some hint at the future found inside- Heliosphan, Delphium, Pulsewidth, We Are The Music Makers. If you don’t own a copy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Work 85-92, you really should.

Xtal