Where To Start With... Aphex Twin
Richard David James, aka Aphex Twin, is one of the most the most unique musicians the UK has ever produced. His harsh, experimental electronica often hide beautiful melodies behind the madness, and his prankster attitude and tendency to record under lots of different aliases make him even harder to pin down. Next week sees the release of Syro, the first proper Aphex Twin studio album since 2001’s druQs. So here’s a look back on five tracks from his back catalogue to start with…
The title track of Aphex Twin’s first EP, originally released under the alias AFX, is still one of his most accessible songs. A lovely piece of early 90s piano house, it bubbles along beautifully, as the title suggests, like a warm bath of sound.
To Cure A Weakling Child
By his fourth record Richard D. James Album, Aphex Twin had largely abandoned his original acid house and ambient influences, moving on to experimenting with digital synthesizers and unorthodox beats. The beautifully named ‘To Cure A Weakling Child’ also shows his penchant for making weird, creepy music, with what sounds like unintelligible child’s squeaking over the track’s harsh rhythms.
Come To Daddy (Pappy Mix)
Aphex Twin at his most scary. A throbbing industrial riff, which James described as a “crappy death metal jingle,” is accompanied by vocals (a rarity for Aphex Twin), screeching that he will “eat you soul” and similar threats. The music video, the first of several collaborations with acclaimed director Chris Cunningham, was equally as terrifying, featuring a demon monster and shot on the same council estate as A Clockwork Orange.
'Windowlicker' was Aphex Twin’s attempt at 90s R&B, but the end result is anything but sexy. Breakbeat snare rushes, moody base and sultry wordless vocals all combine to create a weird, slimy alternate-world take on the MTV Base playlist. The famous video, again directed by Chris Cunningham, also mocked the exuberant rap promos of the era, with sexy girls with Richard James’ distorted face and a ludicrously stretched limo that takes a full 20 seconds to slowly drive past the screen.
This short, sparse piano track from 2001’s druQs is proof that Aphex Twin can be tender as well as terrifying. The song was also famously sampled by Kanye West for his track ‘Blame Game’ from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. For the record, the name is a track translates as ‘April 14th' in old Cornish dialect (many of the song titles on druQs are in the language of James’ native county) and is not a reference to Ms Lavinge.
Aphex Twin’s new album Syro is released on Monday (September 22) and is available for pre-order in hmv stores and our download store now.