But instead of a tidal wave, it’s more of a trickle. I need musical Flomax.
To put it another way, music continued to disappoint, but this time I don't think it was my fault.
Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85 - 92
This is the happier, peppier cousin to the record that I use for my depressions. And as I said previously I thought it might serve as a halfway mark to music that was more fun than what I had been listening to during that long, cold winter.
But my (admittedly unreliable) first impression is meh.
My second impression, awful, and in it’s own way, even more depressing than his other record.
And, as is usually the case my third thru whatever-I’m-up-to-now listen, better.
This is one of the first records ever called “electronica”. And the issue, to me, will always be Does It Have Any Soul? And by that I don’t necessarily mean does it have Aretha Franklin singing on it, but rather, does it have real (or very well faked) feeling to it?
This is a valid question for any kind of music, but especially important for electronica, where there’s less of a reliance on words, and where there’s always a danger that the technology will overwhelm the the human.
That seems a fair way of judging this record. Here’s my reaction to each track, without the track names, because they’re silly. (ie. “Xtal”, “Tha”, etc. You get the idea. It’s like he’s a member of a Sci-Fi themed fraternity):
- We start off promisingly enough. Very sleek electronica. But the key element is the woman's voice in the background that humanizes it.
- Again, voices in the background - this time spoken - humanize this one, but not as successfully as before. I like my alienation as much as the next guy so I hang in there. It's somewhat sterile but the ghosts in the machine help.
- A less cool, and thus more humane, melody and beat that will one day get used to great effect by Erasure.
- Here’s where I start to get a Pure Moods vibe link. (Do you have Pure Moods? Of course you do. It’s a phase we all go through. Dont let it get you down. It’s not so bad. But it does kind of announce that you’re middle aged.) For a while I thought I was hearing heavy breathing on this one, but that turned out to be my son Michael exercising. So, thumbs down here, although the bass is trying.
- And now I just don't care. He's trying to be Eno, and failing. Thank God it’s short.
- And now he's getting desperate - he speeds things up a bit, but all I’m hearing are a lot of synthesizer farts.
- And here he tries to be haunting and almost gets away with it. But not quite.
- Now, this is a pretty cool track, and I can definitely imagine it getting played in clubs, where, you know, humans go. (Not me, cool humans.) But there’s that whole “we are the music makers” lyric. Well, screw you buddy. We're the ones paying the music makers.
- And again, not bad. Techno, but not entirely soulless.
- More, techno, and perfect for that club.
- Now he goes to outer space, where no one can hear you snore.
- And then back to Earth, where’s it’s not all that exciting, either. After a minute or so it perks up a bit.
- Kind of brooding, in a good way. Kind of peppy too. It’s got the right attitude.
Most of these cuts are pretty long, and to be fair, they usually need a minute or so to kick in. But I don’t know if I’ve got that kind of time.
I suppose that, in its infancy, these are the areas that electronica had to explore, but I find more heart in Eno/Moby/DJ Shadow and even Burial.
From what I understand, Richard D. James (secret identity of Aphex Twin!, Oh my god, I gave it away!) was in his teens when he started out, so in that light, this is quite an achievement.
I also noticed a disturbing resemblance to the type of music they'd play on Miami Vice (another extreme dislike of mine from the 80s), which makes sense given that this collection covers 1985 to 1992.
This is music for those desperate to feel cool. And it works better in a club than it does out here in real life. Or to paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s music that sounds better when you’re not listening to it.
But it’s growing on me. A little. The big joke on Aphex Twin is that, instead of this being apt for nighttime at a club in the city, how much better this sounds on a Saturday morning when I’m trying to do chores.
As it so happens, I’ve just gotten out of bed. I’m in a tee shirt and haven’t shaved yet, so I can practically pass for Don Johnson. So let me put on that blazer, roll up the sleeves and do the dishes!
To the tune of Aphex Twin.