Aphex Twin - Windowlicker - Warp Records
"Aphex Twin is the primary pseudonym adopted by British electronic marvel Richard D. James, an eccentric, mysterious character who may very well become the 21st century's Mozart. Windowlicker, James' latest EP, may contain only three tracks, but it demonstrates convincingly that his skill and musical vision are still expanding at a phenomenal rate. There is not a single artist on the planet whose music has pushed the envelope in terms of style and innovation as far.
James has assumed a number of monikers over the years, including AFX, Caustic Window, Q-Chastic, and The Dice Man to name only a few. His discography includes dozens of releases, ranging from limited vinyl pressings of as few as 100 copies with no labeling whatsoever to never-published themes for television advertisements. His booming popularity has driven him, fortunately, to re-release most of his long-out-of-print library. His videos are not exactly MTV fodder; the nightmarish "Come to Daddy" was only featured briefly, and I believe came with a guarantee that any viewer under the age of ten would wake in the middle of the night screaming for Mommy.
The title track of Windowlicker is another fine example of James' mastery in combining elements of contemporary electronic music with effects and sounds that have never even been dreamed of before. A THX sound system would be nice to have for listening to this EP; the low end of the sonic spectrum is utilized far beyond the capabilities of anything you can find at Best Buy. The second track, with a title much too complicated to write in this space (James enjoys throwing music cataloguers a loop by endowing his tracks with scientific formulae rather than normal letter-and-number titles - I'm talking summation symbols and all here), is mostly experimentation and showing off what he can do with his computers.
The innovation is not just in the sounds, however. While most songs can be summed up in two to three pages of sheet music due to their repetitive spirit, James rarely maintains even his percussion for more than a single measure. Every element of his music evolves, distorts, and shifts throughout each piece, much like the groundbreaking orchestration of classical composer Steven Reich (who you also need to hear if you haven't). Sometimes the sounds will flip around and play backwards, sometimes the beat will pause, and often a new sound will come out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of you. The amazing thing is that it works. To borrow a term from policy studies, what we have here is a paradigm shift, and one doozy it is.
The final track, "Nannou," demonstrates James' ability to create music on a computer that is not only intriguing, but melodic and lovely as well. Beautiful in both sound and concept, this simple song starts with the sound of someone winding a music box, then recreates the music produced by such a box with amazing authenticity, all the way down to the metallic resonance of the vibrating tines. Layer builds upon layer, even incorporating the sound of the winding; it all adds up to glorious depth and texture.
Not satisfied with putting out a mere audio CD, James decided to debut new technology on this disc as well. Touted to be the first of its kind, the disc includes software called HyperCD, which allows possessors of the EP (and an internet connection) exclusive access to a website that features the full-length, TV-quality video for the title track. The video plays with startling resolution and smoothness even through a 56k modem. Chris Cunningham, who directed "Come to Daddy" (and also Madonna's "Frozen" - so you can tell he has an eerie streak a mile wide), took it upon himself to create yet another disturbing vision of Richard D. James' face superimposed onto others' bodies. This time his goateed visage appears on bikini-clad women (just like on the EP's cover), with rather hideous results. It must be seen to be believed. Technology is great, but I have to say that this application should never have been explored.
As stated in my rating of this CD, you either love Aphex Twin or you hate Aphex Twin. With a passion. My fiancée complains of headaches and impending nightmares. My brother and I, however, fiend for the next release. I firmly believe that Richard D. James is laying the path for the music of the future; it will take years for other artists to catch up. Even if many find his sound distasteful, his innovation in terms of structure will influence many to come. My advice is to familiarize yourself with the sound now, before the rest of the block catches on.
- Product Code: WAP105 12"
- Availability: Out Of Stock
- Ex Tax: 12.90€