Friday 21 January 2011

A Very Warped History 5: 1996

    Previous Part                                                                                                       Next Part   

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

1 comment:

Barthol said...

Nice history lesson. Aphex and the other IDM artists have influenced contemporary music so much. Even Gwen Steffani has IDM type parts in her songs. Don't you just love the Millennium era in the music?