Monday, May 10, 2010

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)

| IDM | Electronica | Ambient Techno |
| Experimental Electronics |

Techno in general, is a test of one's endurance to repetition. For me it's about finding a balance between the trance state of the music and the overall composition of the song: rhythm, texture... etc. And what to say about Ambient? Before AFX, Ambient music was almost completely following the ground laid by Brian Eno and minimalist composers like Philip Glass, without many enhancements.
Both are based upon endless loops. Ambient tried to reach one's subconsciousness, but usually lacked of complex structures and/or catchy rhythms, what techno might had tried to accomplish, but failed upon giving the music a feeling as deep as in ambient music. That's where Richard D. James's, with the Aphex Twin monicker, geniality kicks in.

A landmarking album, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 sounds different from everything that precedes it. It takes the best aspects in both Ambient and Techno music and enhances them into a whole new level of musicianship. Its influence is highly visible in both the later sounds of electronic and minimalist music, and also fronting the IDM movement. If I had to pick one album of electronica, it'd be SAW.

As the name sugests, SAW is a collection of songs produced by the early period of Richard's musical life (obviously, from '85-'92). As for being a collection of songs, instead of a proper album, SAW lacks a little bit when it comes to cohesiveness (specially on the later half of it). Still, the songs are so strong individually that the lack works positively here, enhancing the individual power of each composition and giving the album a higher 'replay value'.

When it comes to the sound aspect, SAW 85-92 is mostly filled with a dark atmosphere. The aspects of ambient music are perfectly blended with the electronica style, each song being a otherworldly trip into the deep of the mind (yeah, that 'close your eyes and enjoy' stuff). Furthermore, the songs are beat-oriented - which, despite being quiet complex sometimes, feels really fragile and delicate. The album is also highly and desperately sparse, thin percussion and several haunted-synth lines are the only components on most songs. Besides, the album's whole sounding is pretty unique, due in large part to the effects James managed to wrangle from his supply of home-manufactured contraptions.

It's impossible to pick 'highlights' in such a perfect record, but my favourite tracks are Xtal, Pulsewidth and Ageispolis. Tha, We Are The Music Makers, Green Calx and Heliosphan are also among the strongest and catchiest. Overall, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is pretty much an example of a flawless album. It always gives me a hard to describe feeling, which I don't even know if is good or bad, but which I love profoundly.

Catalog: AMB 3922 CD (Apollo)
Download (256kbps)

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