The Two Sides of Aphex Twin

Having a large audience is great, awesome, and all the superlative that could be associated with it would fit. As a striving or an established artist, this especially means that a monetary inflow would be secured. Amazing?

Having a large audience although, also stands for having an audience with expectations. Expectations have dynamics amongst the dedicated listeners, where e.g., the anticipation of a new album announced is expected to be better, or as of the same calibre, than the previous single or album. 

Audience demand for quality, set by the artists themselves, can be either paralysing or encouraging for them. In either way, artists that are unapologetic, true and loyal to themselves only, tend to be those where creativity and a refreshing breeze comes from. Yet a cooling breeze, new and free from past experience, seems of lesser value in a world where short attention spans only stop and take in what it already knows or familiar with.

->To get right into what the heading indicates, jump right here!

This is about how Richard D. James, a.k.a Aphex Twin, stuck to his style and making music he loves while giving out a strong sense of two different personas behind the music-making process. The multi-awarded artist, including a grammy, pioneered a broad spectrum of electronic music genres, such as ambient, drum and bass, techno, acid and more. His techniques have and are still being widely employed and copied by music-makers to this day. We also talk about some of his aliases.

Prix Ars Electronica for Digital Musics & Sound Art – 1999

NME Single of the Year – 2000

Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album – 2015

The First Twin

The first side of Aphex is calmer and a slow-paced one. This facet expresses very melodic and spacious pieces of electronic, that many describe as spiritual ( do not confuse with religious ) and even philosophically-inducing (referring to the thousands quote-worthy comments on a youtube video). The charm of space in music is as impactful as suspenseful pauses found in an eloquent speaker’s speech. Attentive enough listeners find time to relate, associate and become in tense to what they are taking in. I find this space in:

Stone in Focus’, ‘Blue Calx’ and ‘Rhubarb’ from the Selected Ambient Works 85-92 Volume 2.

Now those above, are only about space.

As you may have given it a listen, the beat structure is non-existent and really upholds the space factor in the music. To note that to this side, there’s also and especially those with beats; the kind of decelerated drum and bass effects and cool TR-808s (classic electronic beat structure tool).

Unlike spiritual impacts, these are more pacesetters and those that get you wholly grooving.

Amidst the vast amount of tracks are such as
We are the music makers‘, ‘IZ-US’, ‘prememory 100N pt.2‘, ‘Sam’s Car’ and ‘Xtal’.

Xtal (or pronounced Crystal) from the album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 Volume.1, is a really warm piece when it comes to the 3 synthesised melodies interlinked, accompanied with the humming that makes the experience another kind of joyful.

Based on the considerate amount of plays given to this track over many years, the name Crystal fits well; in the sense that each listen sounds really clear, feels fresh and draws one to it. This composition and structure are uncommon. This uniqueness, even among Aphex Twin’s own tracks, evokes the purity and allure of what it’s named after.  

Sam’s Car is just perfect. The track sounds simple and made up of sound effects that Aphex uses on other tracks as well; with different combinations, that is. It sounds straightforward in terms of melody and bass, but its underlying complexity can be first heard in its snare until it all really unfolds and fully fledges at 01:40.
There’s a saying that goes as “Abundance is the dullest desire“. In electronic music productions, using too many elements breaks the element. On this track, the number of sound layers used, never felt about this right.

The Second Twin

The second side of Aphex is one that I’m personally still in the process of getting used to. Yes, I do believe that love for music comes first from a habit of active listening. I mentally judge it to be violent at first, but that’s just my ability to take this information in, based on my conditioning, isn’t it?

I do active listening, especially because I don’t understand anything, can’t relate and can’t associate it with anything I heard in my environment up to now. So I listen actively, not by using a tremendous effort to comprehend, but to feel. Creating new memories by living around the music seems a way. This may be listening while doing day-to-day activities.
Like the other day… with my judgement screaming ‘violence’ and ‘black death’ while listening to 1997’s release ‘Come To Daddy‘, all when petting my very tenacious 11-year old dog. There was an intriguing charm to it, about the confused look my dog gave me.

Come to Daddy‘s haunting chorus is a full-fledged ear-worm, you’ll just be catching yourself singing it.

The music video is a piece of work as well, bear in mind the making of it was in 1997/1998; it’s exclusivity and creativity led it to be nominated for MTV Video Music Award for Best Visual Effects and MTV Europe Music Award for Best Video for that year.

This side’s ‘hardcore’ aspect, if we may put it like that, is largely associated with the much faster pace of the beat structure. Its irregularity and abstraction in its tempo are what I feel makes it what it is. The process of writing this paragraph has been performed while having some of the latest works of Aphex on my playlist, i.e. the 12-tracked album Syro, the Collapse EP; and some of the 2001-2005 releases, i.e. the album Drukqs and Hangable Auto Bulbs. With time spent along with the music, it has been getting more and more under my skin and the whole atmosphere of this second twin; is actually quite very lush.

I have been listening to Aphex’s works mostly as singles / track-wise only. Now that I’m going through the album’s playlist order, where the first and second twins kinds of alternates. It turns out that, as Aphex’s DJ sets, his music tempo is narrated through a flow of intense peaks and cooler grooves.

Aliases and Notable Mentions

Richard James also released materials under various monickers other than Aphex Twin. Among the list are: Caustic Window, Bradley Stryder, Brian Tregaskin, even Karen Tregaskin…, and his first-ever used monicker Phonic Boy On Dope. Richard James also puts out a lot of material on Soundcloud under the alias ‘user18081971‘.

Phonic Boy On Dope

Spotlighting on Phonic Boy On Dope [ PBOD ], and the one aspect that blows my mind, that is the relevancy of these tracks. These were imagined and produced in 1988/89; yes that’s 33 years back. If you mix it for the floor these days, in literally any scene, this will be an absolute banger material.

The three tracks below: starting with Raindrops on Roses and 5 Window Peeper+6 (produced 1989), and His Eyes Eq (prod. 1988); are some of the material from PBOD. Hopefully, Richard will be putting up more.

The first six words from Julie Andrews’ sung poetry, is the sample used on PBOD’s Raindrops on Roses.

Raindrops On Roses is a wholehearted and amazing house tune, and the sample used on this is the soundtrack from the 1965 musical-drama film The Sound of Music directed by Robert Wise and with Julie Andrews’ magical voice.

AFX

‘Orphans’ is a track that speaks for itself, and to me personally falls into the first twin’s mood, but with a serious acid element. This came as an EP only for digital download on Aphex Twin’s website, but has had a special treat; with a 12-inch vinyl issue after Aphex’s massive performance at Printworks; for Red Bull’s London Music Festival in 2019.

On these various fluctuating notes, we hope you had some insights into the clever soundscapes of Aphex Twin.
Let us always bear in mind that Claude Debussy‘s Danse Bohémienne was held as “not a single idea is expressed fully, the form is terribly shriveled, it is much too short and lacks unity“. L’Academie Des Beaux-Arts criticised his work as “Bizzare, incomprehensible and unperformable and for courting the unusual…”. Contemporaries tend to underestimate art based on the major trends, and classical music pioneer Debussy’s example could not illustrate this any better.

Also, please note that a lot of Aphex’s works are on Bandcamp! the platform that bridges fans and artists directly. Click on this link to browse the library, understand more of his releases’ order or to purchase for your collection !

P.s. Drink a lot of water, eat healthy and keep being weird!

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