Aphex Twin

At its most accessible, Selected Ambient Works volume II has an engaging sense of harmony with billowing, delicate wafts of synthesisers, light percussion patterns and fragile melodies. At its most challenging, it wraps atonal techno bleeps and burps around muted percussion with such insistent repetition that you'll find yourself either hypnotised or running screaming from the room.

artist: 
Aphex Twin

country of origin: 
UK

style(s):
Ambient techno

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential ambient releases:

  • Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1993, R&S/Warp)
  • Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994, Sire/Warp)

Reviewed by Mike G

The mischievous, enigmatic Englishman Richard James is behind these two strange, compelling excursions in 90's ambient techno, released on pioneering UK electronica label Warp Records.

While his roots lie at the hardcore and industrial IDM end of the dance spectrum - styles to which his Aphex Twin alias soon returned after these albums - his popularity among dance and techno fans at the time was enough to send Selected Ambient Works Volume II into the UK Top Twenty albums charts on its release in 1994. Both albums remain compelling and distinctive, and are quite far removed from the lusher sound that typified a lot of Artificial Intelligence-style British techno during its first wave from the early to mid-90's.

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1993) is certainly the more lively and beat-focused of the two and its textures are strikingly original, most likely because many of its sounds come from analogue synths, boxes and gadgets that James built himself at home.  Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994) is a rather different beast, far more minimal. On this album particularly, the minimalist ethic of composers like Brian Eno is clearly at work with James cunningly developing his pieces so that subtle changes become like major events. At its most accessible, it has a mystical sense of harmony with billowing, delicate wafts of synthesisers, light percussion patterns and fragile melodies. At its most challenging, it wraps atonal techno bleeps and burps around muted percussion with such insistent repetition that you'll find yourself either hypnotised or running screaming from the room. But hey, who says ambient has to be relaxing?

Share this:
Share