Friday, 21 January 2011

A Very Warped History 5: 1996

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The year is 1996, and Richard D. James has been hard at work, releasing his 3rd album on Warp in as many years. This album and it's predecessor ...I Care Because You Do are widely regarded as the magnum opus of Aphex, and rightly so. While ...ICBYD had analogue equipment and was drenched in acid, Richard D. James Album would be the record where Aphex started using computers and software to compose, and as a result give rise to his now famous schizophrenic beats, The album is also incredibly short, the UK version clocking in at just over half an hour (with Richard claiming anything over that length "Bores me"). RDJ Album holds a special place in my heart however, as it was the first thing I ever heard from Aphex (knowingly at least) and became one of my favourite albums ever in the process.

Don't be mislead by the frankly menacing cover art either, the album is much lighter and accesible than the claustraphobic industrial vibes of ...ICBYD, combining classical elements with quasi-drum 'n bass and other synthesized sounds, as heard here in the opening track, 4.

A brief relapse into previous territory here, the opening of the incredibly titled Peek 824545201 sounds like a leftover slice from a previous project, menace lurking beneath that cold, imposing beat. After about 40 seconds or so it drops out of the mix and the track mingles with some smooth synths, with the beats occasionally coming back to haunt you.

Originally intended for James' unreleased 1995 album Melodies From Mars, Fingerbib sounds just as you'd expect a song called Fingerbib to sound, the synths producing simple melodies chirping away like birds outside your window. Short and sweet, as is the majority of the album.

Often mislabelled as "Corn Mouth" thanks to RDJ's (badly) handwritten tracklist on the back, Carn Marth is a perfect example of the style on the album, and it also shows a return to the creative sampling we've heard before, this time it's the various bloops and whirrs of a ZX Spectrum, an old school PC from the early 80's.

One of the slower tracks on the album and another standout, Yellow Calx is the last in the series of "X Calx" tracks by Aphex, beginning with Green Calx on Selected Ambient Works 85-92, and continuing with Blue Calx from Selected Ambient Works Vol. II.

Probably my overall favourite from the album (along with 4) and longest track on the album: Girl/Boy Song combines all the parts of the album I love into one, the intro will hook you in, and then the contrasting combination of the twitchy drums and classical strings will make you love it.

Topping it off is the also often mis-titled (as Logon or Logl/ Rock Witch) final track, where creative sampling makes another appearance, this time in the form of children's toys. not circuit bent ones either, just as they are. Once again AFX makes the completely weird actually listenable, somehow.

Aphex's finest hour? that's for you to decide, coming up next we have Boards Of Canada's stone cold classic debut album on Warp, you don't want to miss that one, trust me.

What Big Teeth You Have,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Very Warped History 4: 1995 (2 Of 2)

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This entry of Warped focuses on Aphex Twin's first conventional album on Warp, released just over a year after SAW V.II. 1995 would be the the year that AFX would release his last analouge material for a decade, switching to computer and software based production after this album. Recorded between 1990 and 1994 ...I Care Because You Do is unique as it doesn't have any of AFX's trademark schizophrenic beats, as they would be introduced in ...ICBYD's follow up the next year, Richard D. James Album.

Why yes, the cover art is a self portrait by Richard himself, trademark creepy smirk and all.

The album itself is a mash of everything from industrial, straight up acid and mere brain melting glimpses of Aphex's soon to be trademark style on RDJ Album. Oh, and don't forget the 6 track names which are anagrams of things like Aphex Twin and whatnot, a gimmick carried on some months later with the Hangable Auto Bulb EP, itself an anagram of Analogue Bubblebath, AFX's first EP.

It begins with the first of the anagram-ed tracks, Acrid Avid Jam Shred (Richard David James) which is not an ideal opener in my eyes; mainly due to the 3 minute intro where not much happens other than some random bleeps here and there. After that though it becomes a deceptivley light-hearted insight into what lies ahead.

A brief relapse into Acid here as strings are mixed with heavily filtered bass, the resulting mix is claustrophobic, macabre and downright strange. Another thing to note is that this track was later "remixed"on the Donkey Rhubarb EP. I say "remixed" because well... it was a fully orchestrated version done by Phillip Glass. Yeah.

Immediately afterward you are plunged into the depths of Aphex's twisted sense of humour. This right here folks, is something else, a track that simulates the Tinnitus heard by asthmatics when they OD on Salbutamol (hence the track title) the result is abrasive, distorted and borderline unlistenable. And this was the ONLY SINGLE from this album! You can't help but wonder if Rich is taking the piss, or if he's genuinley mental; because if you can listen past the ringing, it's actually quite a good tune.

Another Acid bath, this time a bit more conventional, instead of being an all out audio assault this ones a chopped up vision of things to come, nothing stays consistent for long in the mix. The beats and bass hop all over the place, background synths fade in and out, filters come and go, the works.

To finish off, my two favourite tracks from this album, the precursors to Richard D. James Album. Firstly, Mookid (Named because the synth Supposedly sounds like a calf mooing) is a very smooth piece where RDJ lets the synth carry the majority of the song, a stark contrast to the acidic tones of previous tracks.

Alberto Balsalm (Named after a brand of shampoo here in the UK) is where AFX's creativity with weird samples really shows, (it's shown up in previous parts of the record as well, with "Come On You Slags!" aptly sampling a porno flick.) Alberto Balsalm uses a sample of a chair sliding across a floor as a main element of the beat, it fits so well with the other sounds you'd never notice until someone points it out.

That wraps up the first entry of warped this year, There will be another "Warped Leftovers" for this entry if anyone's interested, the record in question is Boards Of Canada's Twoism released on their own label Music70 and later reissued in 2002 by Warp. It's a very important release because it was the record that got BoC signed to Warp in the first place (As the story goes, within half an hour of hearing it, Steve Beckett phoned them up and offered them a contract) it's got remnants of BoC's techno style on it, so I'll likley be saving it for after I deal with their other albums.

Advance Boat Flux,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Very Warped History 4: 1995 (1 Of 2)

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Today we have one of the founding releases of the "chillout" movement in the late 90's, you know, Café Del Mar and all that. Anyway, as I mentioned in my first post of this series, Nightmares On Wax used to to Techno/Rave tunes and DJ under E.A.S.E (Experience A Sample Expert, which you will hear in his chillout work too) Until 1995 that is, with the release of the aptly named Smokers Delight. BUT I intentionally left some of the best tracks out of that short overview. did I have this series planned from only my first week of writing? maybe, or maybe I know what to keep to myself just in case the chance arises ;D

With a title and art like that, you can pretty much guess what it sounds like, that is reggae inspired dub fused with the vibes of a certain illegal substance. Not that you need any of them to enjoy this record, if you like chill tracks, you'll love this. Now let's see... picking from the tracks leftover from the first overview, we have some real gems and laidback ledgends. let's kick it all off shall we? N.O.W up to his usual tricks and getting flashy with the sample work, enjoy.

The first real gem IMO is Pipes Honour, I had this on loop for about 4 weeks after I bought the album and it never gets old, which for a NINE MINUTE track is quite a feat. Funky guitars, slow beats, good samples, this track has it all. Feel the vibes on this one, relax, kick back and start groovin' wherever you are.

The times when I didnt loop PH I was looping this one instead, which is on the other end of the spectrum at just shy of a minute long, it's amazingly well done for it's length and I wouldn't be surprised if you all have to play it through three or so times just to get enough of that excellent bassline and vocals.

I mentioned in my overview that Smokers goes down well as backing music for social gatherings, and this track is the moment in the album where everyone's stopped to listen after 9 tracks of similar stuff the music takes center stage. you can't not love this one, if only for the catchy melody.

Moving more into lounge territory with this next track Mission Venice (which BARELY lost it's place on my "Struttin' Songs" post) it has a different feel to the rest of the album, it starts with that catchy few note loop, then teases you with little snippets of it before coming back again for the last half of the song. A real classic.

If you asked me to sum up the feel and atmosphere of Smokers Delight, I would choose these two tracks and Pipes Honour they are the tracks that I never tire of. For example, the intro to Rise gets me every time, as soon as I hear it I know what is on the way and love every second of it.

And as for the reprise? well I may think N.O.W missed a good title by not calling RepRise, the track itself is what it says on the tin, if you loved Rise you will love this even more.

Crack a brew and take the load off, sit around with this one on and you wont be disappointed, I guarantee. Alight, I think that about wraps up this album for good, make sure you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you really like any of this stuff you should go buy it, Warp's online store have everything I have posted so far (and will post) so check them out!

Bless My Soul Indeed,
-Claude Van Foxbat