My Record Collection from A–Z
Aphex Twin


I didn’t intend for there to be such a long duration between posts. Being hospitalized back in April didn’t help but mostly I’ve just struggled with Aphex Twin because every time I start to work on it I fall down a crazy Richard D. James rabbit hole. Each link leads to another fascinating connection and before I realize it, I’ve watched a few hours worth of video. His liberal attitude towards uploading his music and also everyone’s collective fascination with his work has generated so much information and mystique that, well, it’s hard to finally put it all down in one blog post. I also need to publish this before I get anymore Aphex Twin EPs and LPs and start all over down that rabbit hole. 

I stumbled upon a BBC radio broadcast that touches on all my key points in a much more coherent and interesting way. So, I recommend listening to the show while you look at the pictures in this blog:


And also some background on the legend:

Here are some links to the reaction when the Syro marketing first came out:


As with the folks in the radio program, I’ve also been intrigued by the aesthetics of the Syro launch and Richard D. James’ use of graphic design over the years. The Aphex Twin symbol is a pretty recognizable brand element. Here are some interesting links about its design (also referenced in the show). Some pretty interesting information, including the original logo drawings:



What’s your favorite musical identity? I’ve had some fun looking at a bunch of these various logos. And beyond the marks, there’s distinct packaging, visuals, and typography that are associated with specific bands or record companies. Have you ever flipped through CDs or Vinyl in the store and picked up something because the aesthetics were appealing or even recognized the band/label before you even read the name? On the other hand, does the branding/visual information ever interfere with the music, affecting your interpretation or enjoyment?


Here’s one of those 50 best of something links. Did your favorite mark make the list?





I like this record a lot. Perhaps it suffers a little from the weight of anticipation. Can it ever fulfill all of our desires? Not as much of a fail as Guns & Roses. More like that My Bloody Valentine album—trying reference the part about the past that's in our consciousness while still being about the present. It’s a difficult project, so beware (I'm pointing at you, Tool). It sounds a little like every song contains the same key Aphex Twin touchpoints. Slightly different combination each time but essentially a formula is followed. Kind of like this Onion article from twenty years ago:



It’s not totally out of the blue. There had been a bunch of interesting events leading up to Syro that communicated how rabid fans were for more Aphex Twin:


As mentioned in the interviews, Richard D. James also uploaded a huge volume of tracks under various soundcloud pseudonyms. I wonder if Syro was conceived as a unified album/project or is it essentially a greatest hits of tracks from the last two decades? Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian about his soundcloud uploads that, importantly, provides links to the tracks and pseudonyms but also contextualizes it within a broader question of how artists can effectively utilize the Web:


And there was the Cheetah EP (don’t have it, yet) and I mention it here because it was the first official single/video that was launched in seventeen years and led us all to believe that more would follow. In keeping with Aphex Twin's idiosyncratic approach, Richard D. James and Warp also commissioned a twelve year old to create a video for one of the tracks (it’s great):колхозная-mix-music-video-watch/


Aphex Twin stuff keeps getting unearthed, too. Check out this Peel Session:

The live performances in support of Syro have pretty much all been reviewed as “bonkers”. You can see one of them here and it really is pretty crazy…again, as stated in the audio piece above, it’s kind of amazing how energized everyone is about the concert considering how challenging some of the sounds are that are being amplified. Like the other stuff, Richard D. James seems to really understand how to make these concerts an event where people are feeling like they’re participating in an important moment, beyond just watching a show. Overall, an interesting topic when it comes to EDM and the “spectacle” of the DJ versus a live band. The live music seems to me to be more provocative than the album. I like the album a lot but the overall effect seems a bit too easy to push to the background, like hipster elevator music.


There are more Field Day tracks at the afx (another Richard D. James pseudonym) site, which is as inclusive (appears that you can listen to full tracks from all the albums and EPs) and weird as you would expect:

Compare to his Coachella set from 2008:


The album came shrink-wrapped with a green label that was the same color as the blimp (should have kept the sticker).Tiny black text, in a default-looking monospaced font, printed on uncoated white board. The artwork consists of a long column of text that wraps around the outside of the trifold and made up of an accounting of all the costs associated with the album. Inside, the sleeves are also white with only a small textbox of basic track descriptions in the upper left-hand corner. The reverse of each sleeve is blank except for the last sleeve that contains a complicated graph that lists each instrument and its use on each track. The dilatational layout of this graph (thanks Kimberly Elam) contrasts with the rest of the layout and is fun to look at but not very comprehensible, which was the effect that the designers were hoping to achieve (read about it in the link). The label of each record side has an image of a vinyl puck—the material of the record before it’s pressed. They’re beautiful images but, conceptually, they seem a little out of place compared to the rest of the graphics that are all text and about data and not material. If the whole design is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the meaninglessness of Richard D. James’s project then I suppose it’s fair to be reminded that all of my records are just blobs of vinyl (as I carefully tuck them back into their paper sleeves and archival plastic outer sleeve before I put it back into alphabetical order on my shelf). 


You know it’s important when it makes the New York Times:


Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2
My favorite part about this record is the label on each side that states 33 or 45. I’ve never seen that on a record, so of course I’ve listened to it at both speeds and I think it works fast or slow, normal or fast, normal or slow? What’s the intended speed or does it even matter? The MP3s provided with the record appear to alternate from fast to slow.

This review from FACT is interesting, even though it doesn’t seem to care for the record all that much. The suggestion that being over 35 and still having a career in EDM is probably pretty chilling to a lot of producers out there right now and is, sadly, probably somewhat true? Does the reference to “unfinished business” of Drukqs explain the Pt.2 in the title? Otherwise it’s pretty self-explanatory. How cool would a Aphex Twin MIDI tour be? Just Richard D. James and a bunch of robotic instruments? A one-man band on steroids?

"Sort of like a couple overclocked Chuck-E-Cheese drummers with a jazz professor thrown in…"


I think it’s much cooler when you visit with the person who made the robots. He’s eccentric and totally invested in them. He’s not building them as a novelty. You won’t think chuck-e-cheese after watching this video (and his penis):

Godfried-Willem Raes’s website:

Also, you can put a grand piano on a platform and swing it back and forth. This video is awesome:


I always liked Drukqs and the way that the tracks would alternate from chaotic EDM to introspective prepared piano pieces. To me, CCAI-2 isn’t necessarily a completion of the Drukqs project but an exploration of one particular aspect—the relationship of the player to the instrument. It’s not new ground when you look at artists like John Cage and Erik Satie or the Disklavier instrument but the role of the musician in the age of electronics is a question important enough to continuously probe. Compared to Syro, I also like how this EP has a more unified theme. There’s a new EP out now (Collapse) that I don’t have yet. Richard D. James has suggested that he prefers the extended play over long play format and it makes sense to make a shorter record that affords greater focus.


As with Syro, the artwork for CCAI-2 is extremely minimal with really tiny text in the same “Syro” font, knocked out of a warm grey printed on uncoated stock on both the inner and outer sleeve. Insides are printed black. Text is in the extreme top left hand corner of both sides of the outer sleeve, listing tracks (in obscure Aphex Twin jargon). The inside sleeve has minimal production notes on one side. Labels on the records only say “33or45”. It doesn’t actually say, “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt.2” anywhere on the packaging.


Richard D. James is an elusive guy. Whether it’s all intentional or serendipitous, a major aspect of what has made the Aphex Twin “brand” so significant has been his reticence in interviews and his ability to obfuscate the music and his process. So, it’s been a little weird that he’s been so “approachable” in recent interviews.

This pitchfork interview has some fun design too:

Compare to something from 1996. The concert footage is surreal and he’s unusually forthcoming (for that era) about his work and process but there are definitely moments where he’s “taking the piss” out of the interviewer:


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