[25] Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92

27 Sep


The very word evokes, for me, a genre I would happily dismiss out of hand.

And the opening back beat – the oh so generic “mmm chh, mmm chh” of so many club hits makes me roll my eyes initially. But before I know it the music has engaged me, surprised me, dared me to underestimate it.

Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Selected Ambient Works 85-92











I am caught first by the non-distinct, language free vocals buried at the edge of conscious hearing, next by the purposeful and unexpected progressions that gradually occur throughout each track.

It’s just enough to prevent the music from slipping all the way into the background.

The drum loops are more deliberate, less static than I expected, just out of phase enough to avoid becoming hypnotic or even repetitive. And if the occasional synthesizer sound grates – such as the wet electronic twang up front in “Green Calx” – the complex rhythms keep me along for the ride.

The gradual development of the melodies, the shifting instrumentation adding additional note and themes to the repeated tunes, it all gives me something to focus on other than the bland individual pieces that make up what turns out to be a fascinating whole.

The liner notes provide more insight, allowing me to put a label on why I’m enjoying this so much more than expected. The notes describe Aphex Twin here as a next step from the work of Eno and Glass, and I can hear the connection in the layered, almost phase shifted elements of tracks such as “Tha”, building choherent and cohesive large pieces from lots of diverse little ones.

With apologies to Aaron Copeland, is this Minimalism for the masses?

The songs here are very close to the ubiquitous, disposable sounds that made me so very angry in their mediocrity on the rare occasions I let myself be talked into visiting the mainstream clubs of the early 90s. Listening carefully, I hear the difference, the thought and intent behind every decision.

But it appears that others do not agree – this is the recording that has had the most negative reaction when overheard casually, in passing, in my office or at the dinner table. That angry, almost violent reaction previously mentioned has been provoked more than once while Selected Ambient Works played.

At the end of the day, here is an album that has a place in my vocabulary and will be worth a very occasional revisit, if only for a serious change of pace. It is an easy, low brow entry point into the world of Minimalism – catchy enough on its own terms, complex enough to bear genuine scrutiny.

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 25. 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 25. 16%)
Recommend? Yes. (20 of 25. 80%)

Next Week:  Fiona Apple – When The Pawn

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