Artist of the week: Aphex Twin
Richard D. James, better known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is an English electronic musician, composer and DJ. Though his early work is deeply rooted in the rave music and dance culture scene of the late-eighties and early-nineties, his first records are genuine heirs of Brian Eno’s definition of ambient music as environmental and highly texturized investigations on sound-in-itself: both 1992’s Selected Ambient Works 85–92 and 1994’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II are fabulous touchstones in minimal ambient techno that revealed to be tremendously pervasive in the following decades (Kid A, for instance, would arguably never existed without his heavy influence on Thom Yorke).
His next records, 1995’s …I Care Because You Do and 1996’s Richard D. James Album, went for a completely different direction, combining with eerie results his hardcore experimentalism with forays into acid-jungle, industrial drum’n’bass and lush orchestrations. The pinnacle of this phase was 1997’s Come to Daddy and 1999’s Windowlicker, two EPs that were accompanied by two revolutionary music videos directed by Chris Cunningham that considerably increased Aphex Twin’s fanbase. Even though 2001’s Drukqs had, at the time, a lukewarm reception by the critics, it steadily became recognized as one of his most balanced records, combining his ambient tendencies with his demonically extroverted programming.
After a long hiatus only punctuated by DJ appearances and obscure releases under the name of The Tuss, 2014 has proven to be a prodigious year for Aphex Twin’s fans. First, it was a successful crowdfunding campaign that bought and distributed digitally to its contributors an extremely rare acetate of a shelved 1994 Caustic Window album; and now, Syro, is not only the first Aphex Twin album in over a dozen years, but also an mesmerizing addition to one of the most influential electronic music pioneers.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.