Aphex Twin-Selected Ambient Works 85-92 Vinyl).

Label: Apollo Records.

Richard D. James was just twenty-one, when he dawned the Aphex Twin moniker, and released his debut album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 on Apollo Records in late November 1992. Initially, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was only available as an import as Apollo Records, which was an imprint of R&S Records, which was based in Belgium. This meant that many record buyers were struggling to find  copy of Aphex Twin’s debut which soon, had a cult following.

Especially after February 1993 when it became easier to find copies of Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which although it Aphex Twin’s debut album, was the third release by Richard D. James. He was already an experienced producer by the time he released Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

Although Richard D. James was born in Limerick, Ireland, on the ’18th’ of August 1971, he grew up in Lanner, Cornwall, which was where he first discovered music. Richard D. James was a product of a laissez-faire approach to  parenting, and was allowed to do pretty much as he grew up. 

This included experimenting with the family piano, and rather than try to play it in a traditional way, Richard D. James experimented with the strings. Unbeknown to him this was similar to John Cage’s prepared piano experiments. This was got Richard D. James interested in experimenting with music.

By the age of nine, Richard D. James started purchasing tape recorders and tapes, which allowed him to do rudimentary experiments. Two years later, eleven year old Richard D. James won a ZX81 and started experimenting with machine.  After that things happened quickly for Richard D. James.

He bought his first synth aged twelve which allowed him to make his first piece of music. By then, Richard D. James had already started modifying analogue synths and anything else he could make music with. Within a few years, Richard D. James was DJ-ing locally in St Ives, and with future DJ and remixer Tom Middleton were DJ-ing in Crantock. This was all part of Richard D. James’ musical education.

In 1988, Richard D. James enrolled at Cornwall College, and spent the next two years studying HND in engineering. This made sense to Richard D. James as electronics played a big part in the music he was making. However, having completed the HND, Richard D. James left Cornwall College, and a new chapter in his career began.

By then, Richard D. James was DJ-ing in Newquay every other week. The other DJ was Grant Wilson-Claridge and the pair soon became friends. It was then that Grant Wilson-Claridge suggested that they make music together. However, by then, Richard D. James was already making music on his own, including some of the music that eventually featured on Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

Grant Wilson-Claridge’s suggestion that they made music together made sense, as living in a  rural area they were isolated and didn’t have access to the music available in cities. That was unless they recorded their own  music.

The first release was the EP Analogue Bubblebath Volume I, which was released in 1991, and initially, was credited to Aphex Twin.  Later, though, this was changed to AFX. Aphex Twin’s debut EP made it onto the Kiss FM playlist, and was a successful release.

Buoyed by the success of their first EP, Richard D. James  and Grant Wilson-Claridge founded Rephlex Records and the new label released two Analogue Bubblebath EPs and the Bradley’s Beat EP by 1993. By then, Richard D. James had moved to London to continue his electronics studies, and was living in a former bank. However,  when he discovered techno Richard D. James’ studies fell by the wayside. 

Much of his time was spent DJ-ing in local clubs, and in between his  DJ sets, Richard D. James spent much of his time making music. Some of this music featured on the first full-length Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 had been released in 1992.

While Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was primarily an instrumental album, many of the tracks on Aphex Twin featured samples. This included samples of female vocalists and samples of people talking. We Are the Music Makers features Gene Wilder’s reciting: “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams” which excerpts from Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s poem Ode. It featured in the original 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Green Calx features samples from RoboCop, a sample of PIL’s Fodderstompf and an excerpt from the opening titles of John Carpenter’s The Things. It’s distorted in what seems like an attempt to hides the identity of the sample. Although sampling wasn’t new, the way Aphex Twin used the samples was regarded as innovative.

Over a seven-year period, Aphex Twin had woven thirteen musical tapestries by combining samples with the sounds produced by his computer, trusty synths, drum machines and a myriad of percussive sounds. The music Aphex Twin made with his musical arsenal was beat driven, and although it had a simplicity, was atmospheric, spartan and sometimes eerie. Partly, this was down to the synths that Aphex Twin used during the recording of Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Some of the recordings are best described as lo-fi and primitive. However, the sound quality of some recordings weren’t of the best quality. There was a reason for this, a cat had damaged the cassette that contained the recordings. This could’ve had disastrous consequences.

Despite this, critics were won over by Aphex Twin’s debut album, and critical acclaim accompanied the release of Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Some critics went as far as to compare the Selected Ambient Works 85-92 to some of Brian Eno’s early solo albums. Aphex Twin’s debut album was hailed as landmark ambient album, and one the best albums recorded with a computer and keyboards. This was high praise.  However, some critics went further, stating that Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was a truly groundbreaking album. It would play in important part in the history of ambient, intelligent dance music (IDM) and  modern electronic music. There were no dissenting voices and Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was genre classic that would influence future generations of musicians.

Little did Aphex Twin realise that Selected Ambient Works 85-92 would go on to influence a new generation of electronic musicians. Many of them went on to cite Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Aphex Twin major influences on their careers.

By 2018, Richard D. James was forty-seven and was recording albums using a number of monikers, including  AFX, Bradley’s Beat, Polygon Window, The Tuss and Caustic Window. There’s also the small matter of the six albums Richard D. James has recorded as Aphex Twin. Despite the quality of albums like Selected Ambient Works Volume II, …I Care Because You Do and the Richard D. James Album, every Aphex Twin is compared to the album that llaunched his career in 1992…Selected Ambient Works 85-92. It’s regarded as Aphex Twin’s finest hour, which means that it’s fitting that Selected Ambient Works 85-92 has just been reissued by Apollo Records.

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 which is much more than an ambient album. It features elements of ambient techno, avant-garde, electronica, IDM and musique concrète. These genres were woven together by Aphex Twin over seven years as he recorded his debut album which made musical history. That album was Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which is an innovative, timeless, genre classic that was a landmark ambient album that went on to influence a new generation of electronic musicians.

Aphex Twin-Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (Vinyl).

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