Saturday 27 March 2021

Retro Reviews: Aphex Twin - Come To Daddy EP

I was looking to return to the Retro Review format, but didn't want to get bogged down like last time with a whole album. So I went perusing for some smaller releases I could do instead. To my surprise I've yet to cover an Aphex Twin record on these Retro Reviews, though I did do most of them as part of my 'A Very Warped History' series in my early days of writing - and I did cover today's EP briefly in one of a few 'Things I missed' wrap up posts for that series.

But enough background, let's talk about the release itself. The mid to late 90's saw more than a few EPs from Aphex Twin, and more often than not these would prove to be super popular as well. We'll be talking about the first of many of the more popular entires today with 1997's Come To Daddy. It's an odd one for sure for a lot of reasons, you'll find it called a 'mini-album' in some places - if I remember right that was something added to make it eligible for the charts as it's technically too long for an EP. It's also real odd when it comes to choices in sound, which to be fair is something that could be said about any Aphex Twin release but hopefully you'll see what I mean. I will say don't be put off by the slightly unsetting cover, it doesn't really reflect the EP apart from the opening track, more on that in just a second!

We open with the star of the show, the lead track made infamous by that video from Chris Cunningham. It's very much a product of its time in that regard - water cooler chats about "man, did you see that video on MTV last night?" fuelling the fire. Beyond just that though, '97 was seeing Drum & Bass become more popular too and as far as Aphex Twin tracks go, Come To Daddy doesn't go *too* experimental with things. That and the more Industrial sound of this mix must have given it a bit more appeal than to just the electronic market as well. It has rightfully earned its place as one of Aphex's top tracks, it's extremely well done and is pretty much unlike anything else in his discography. However if you picked up the EP expecting more of this throughout, you're going to be left a little disappointed

That doesn't mean the EP is bad though, just none of the other tracks bear even the slightest resemblance to the main mix. In fact, it's kind of the opposite - if you're at all into the more melodic Aphex Twin tracks I can highly recommend this EP as it is full of them. Getting right into it with track 2, Flim. Flim is very much of the school of the more ambient bits of the Richard D. James Album - a gorgeous floaty track punctuated with polyrhythms. Flim is one of my go-to tracks for anyone looking to explore the world of Aphex Twin, it's not too experimental like some of his later works but has enough distinctly AFX elements in there to make it a good first experience. It's one of my favourites of his entire catalogue too - but I always have really liked it when he goes all downtempo-ish like this.

It's track 3 that stumbles a bit. It's not bad by any stretch, but it's certainly not got the power of the one-two punch of the opening salvo of tracks. It too is a more downtempo melodic tune in the vein of parts of the RDJ Album, this time the more... childlike (for want of a better term) tracks. Aphex has a bit of a reputation for not exactly being super serious all the time, there's more than a few examples of him playing around with interviewers or generally having a bit of fun when it comes to his work. The Little Lord Faulteroy mix is where we see the first appearance of that on this EP with the looping vocal here saying "Oooh, you dirty little boy" - with an additional couple of lines like "Watching the water flow past in the canal", but delivered like Danny from The Shining. Some days I can be really into it, and as I said it's not a bad track by any means but it does pale in comparison to the first two.

However it's not long before we're back with another highlight - Bucephalus Bouncing Ball bridges that gap between the gentle introduction to the world of Aphex that was Flim with the much more experimental skittering beats that he's known for. I was guilty of assuming this would be a playing around with spatial sounds kind of deal (a la Plastikman's Ping Pong) but that's not the case. There is a titular 'Bouncing Ball' bit but the track as a whole doesn't lean on that as a gimmick, it doesn't even appear until about 3 minutes in! Truth be told, this track wasn't really on my radar for a long time, but I gained a new appreciate for it after hearing it in a recording of a live show from 1997 - it was there that I fell in love with that break around 1:30 where you have these super heavy kicks backed with the lush kinds of sounds as heard on Flim and the RDJ album, that whole middle part merges the two kinds of AFX sound in the most beautiful way.

That melodic streak continues, this time with a rework of 'To Cure A Weakling Child' from the Richard D James Album. I think of the two, this one might just edge out to be my favourite, the bouncy cut-up vocals of this one make it a joy to listen to. By the time I hit that absolutely divine break at around 1:20 I was completely sold. And it only goes to strength to strength from there, the vocals take a bit of a backseat and are instead replaced with the lovely bassy synth emulating the melody of them that I could gladly listen to all day. It's a great reworking of the original and makes some quality appearances in the live shows of the time, though it does make me wonder how many alternate mixes like this that AFX is sitting on.

We take a trip into the more humorous side after that with Funny Little Man, and I don't really have a lot to say about this one that I didn't already say when it came to the Little Lord Faulteroy mix - even down to the pitched up and slightly sinister vocals. There's nothing wrong with it as I said before but it's just kind of fine you know? After that is the final mix of the title track, this time the Mummy Mix. While it doesn't sound anything like the main 'Daddy' mix - there's a lot of similarity between this one and Bucephalus Bouncing Ball. To me, this is one of the better examples of playful samples - opening with "You've got so many machines, Richard" and with various others throughout it doesn't have that slightly unsettling vibe of the previous vocal samples, and the "Go on, give us a snare rush!" and subsequent avalanche of sound around 2:58 is the capstone of them all for me. Much more beat oriented, the Mummy Mix is yet another track that I can take or leave depending on how I'm feeling on the day: it might have benefitted from some of those melodic touches we've heard on this EP, but sometimes I like it just enough as is.

We close out with another of my all time favourite AFX tracks in IZ-US. I will admit some slight bias because I have some really strong memories attached to this one but even putting those aside I think it's one of his finest works. Sounding almost like something that could have been on 1995's I Care Because You Do, especially with those drums - IZ-US closes out the EP with another smooth almost downtempo piece. Another one of the more accessible pieces of Aphex Twin that there is, unlike Flim it doesn't have much of that experimental edge to it at all. I love everything about this one, it's just well done through and through to the point where it seems almost effortless. Every time I think there needs to be a break there is one, the sounds are played with enough throughout to keep it really refreshing too. It's perhaps a little short, but for a track to close the EP I can't think of a better option.

And that'll do it for this time. It's a great EP and one that I comes highly recommended from me, apart from the two tracks I mention that are just OK there's not a foot put wrong on it. It's perhaps not the best starting point if you're looking to get into Aphex Twin (Personally I would recommend the Richard D James Album for that!), but it's small enough that it's easily digestible and you can kinda use it as a springboard into the other works he has. But be warned, it's a sea of alaises and all kinds of different sounds out there! It's been a while since I listened to this EP front to back like this, and I gotta say it's structured fairly well, whether that was intentional given the 'mini-album' label I don't know!

I liked doing this smaller post, I'll have to look through and see if there are any other EPs I can give this treatment to, though they'll probably be smaller than this one. But I'm digressing again so I'll stop myself here! And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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