Aphex Twin - Donkey Rhubarb
While teaching class yesterday, my students were working on an exercise and this song popped into my head, which somehow started me doing a little dance, which I quickly realized was super inappropriate. Anyway, point being, maybe I should upgrade my rating of 51/13 if remembered songs are randomly causing a one-man dance party.
Aphex Twin: 51/13 Singles Collection
Aphex Twin: Analogue Bubblebath IV
Aphex Twin: Richard D. James Album
Aphex Twin: Analogue Bubblebath III
It’s a little disorienting listening to Aphex Twin in 2011, because you keep expecting it to turn into a Radiohead song. Richard D. James’ sound has been so thoroughly absorbed into the language of pop music - try telling a Wire reader in 1999 that in twelve years Britney Spears will release a glitch track - that its obstinate obtuseness has started to seem small-stakes rather than bold and challenging. Who can say, but I’d argue that an Aphex Twin track would fall utterly flat in today’s sonic and critical environment. What do we do with something so devoid of referents, so affectless and future-looking that it’s nearly robotic? With titles like “4,” and featuring vocals only in the course of sophomoric joke tracks like “Milkman" (look at the massive difference in tone between this "Milkman," released in 1996, and Deerhoof’s Milkman album, released in 2004), Aphex Twin would just seem gauche if removed from its historical seat of importance.
This critical stuff is important because it’s the primary reason I listened to Aphex Twin, at least once you take away the visceral blast of vaguely commercially-minded singles “Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker.” I listened to it to understand music rather than to enjoy it, though it was certainly enjoyable on occasion. Never being much of an electronic music fan, I lacked the vocabulary or context to explain what I liked about the music, to isolate those elements I did enjoy and find them in other acts. I just knew I liked the feeling of “4,” not what it conveyed emotionally or what it meant. But I knew other people liked it, and I wanted to understand why. I knew IDM was important, and I thought just listening to it while possessing that knowledge would convey enlightenment. I don’t think it ever did, though maybe it helped in some gestalt way.
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THE LOGICAL CASE: INTRODUCTION
I listened to cassettes until about 1995; I started listening to music exclusively as digital files in 2008. And between 2001 and 2008, I kept CDs in their original jewel cases, to look more like an authentic music nerd. Between 1995 and 2001, though, any CDs I owned resided in my Case Logic binders. I don’t open them very often anymore. But, with the exception of one binder left on a Trailways bus, these four binders contain every album I owned during those 6 years. That gives me a unique opportunity to look back on my musical tastes during these formative years. I was in my sophomore year of high school in 1995, and in 2001 I graduated college. This, then, is the portrait of an aspiring aesthete, a record of the formation of my taste.
I plan to go through all four binders, in order (they are arranged alphabetically, of course), one page at a time. The rules are as follows:
- I will ignore albums I never listened to.
- I will take out any albums that accidentally ended up in the binders from outside this period.
- Otherwise, I will talk about every album, no matter how embarrassing.
- I will try and talk about how I felt about the album at the time as well as how I feel about it now.
- I will give every album two ratings: one for how I felt about it then, one for how I feel about it now.
Otherwise, everything’s open for negotiation. Updates will be posted semi-regularly. Enjoy!