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 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 Aphex Twin, the sole author of 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 end of the dance spectrum - a style to which he soon returned after these albums - his popularity among dance and techno fans was enough to send Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994) into the UK Top Twenty albums charts on its release in 1994. On that 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.

The second album is far more minimal of the two and is the more purely "ambient" release. When it came out, a few dance critics misunderstood it's understatement as some kind of sick joke. The first album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1993) is certainly more lively 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 is a rather different beast. At its most accessible, the album 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. But hey, who says ambient has to be relaxing? Either way, Volume II is compelling stuff, and also quite far removed from the lush sound that typified a lot of ambient techno in its first wave from the early to mid-90's.

Share this: