Friday, 9 May 2008

Modern Classics: #1. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Music doesn’t have to be so new it hurts to be the best thing ever. These modern classics posts with celebrate albums that aren’t too old but aren’t too new either. The modern classic could be anything, any genre from pretty much any time. Well in modern times anyway, maybe in my life time maybe from the 80s.

Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is the first choice as I recently found out that it’s getting a re-mastered re-issue on R&S. This came as a surprise to me as it is mainly tunes from old tape cassettes, so can’t be improved that much surely? And why would you want to change this album at all?

I have lived with SAW1 for quite a while now and it hasn’t ever been to far away from my stereo. It’s a beautiful mixture of ambient soundscapes and brooding techno. It isn’t as in your face as much of Aphex Twin’s other work, or as dark. There is still a wonderful melancholy to the sound. He started making these tunes when he was just 13/14 years old, back when there wasn’t even that much house and techno kicking around anywhere let alone in the UK. SAW1 is way ahead of its time and a front-runner that was one of the catalysts for the now flourishing electronic scene. Aphex Twin always stands the test of time too by staying way ahead of the game.

If you haven’t heard this record already I don’t know where you have been, not within range of any shop selling tie-dye T-Shirts that’s for sure. Don’t be put off by the crusty leanings, SAW1 has maybe drawn in a bit of the psychedelic stoner crowd over the years and has unfortunately spawned a lot of bad ambient work. But the legacy lives on with other amazing artists and not just in the electronic genre.

The stands out tracks, if I have to choose some are: Xtal, Tha, Pulsewidth, Ageispolis, I, Green Clax, Heliosphan, We are the music makers, Schottkey 7th Path, Ptolemy, Hedphelym, Delphium and Actium. As you may have guessed that’s all of them. The style often stays the same even though the tracks are made over a 7 year period. Hypnotic drums, pulsing synths, looped classical style strings and voice samples all feature heavily. It’s the sound of Detroit and Chicago via the Cornish countryside. Many of the sounds are beautiful and instantly recognisable as Aphex Twin. SAW1 sounds like he was having fun creating strange sounds and putting them together however he saw fit. It’s a blissful joy to listen to. Dig it out layback and enjoy.

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