02/05/2019: “If It Really Is Me” by Polygon Window

Polygon Window is one of the better known aliases of Aphex Twin, along with AFX and The Tuss.

“If It Really Is Me” is a great example of the natural melodic touch that Aphex Twin has, which often gets sidetracked by glitchy weirdness. There is still a definite touch of Richard D. James to this, but at the same time, the piano riff is positively mainstream by Aphex standards…

The track is quite lowkey, with a 4 to the floor kick drum providing the bass. One section has some echoing snares, which mesh perfectly with the splashy hi-hats. Rhythmically though, it isn’t too out there.

It feels like a techno track rather than “IDM” or strange ambient musings, and acquits itself magnificently on that score!

The trademark Aphex twin touch is the expansive, slightly discordant synth which provides a second melody at various points in the touch. The synth puts you in mind of slowly drifting clouds, warping and twisting in the wind.

The song was released in 1993 on the album Surfing On Sine Waves, which has garnered excellent retrospective reviews.

Stupendous!

29/11/2018: “Ageispolis” by Aphex Twin

Today I will examine another of Richard D James’ weird and wonderful creations.

Anyone familiar with Aphex will know that this is a very easy name by his standards. A typical example of how he’s been naming songs for the past 20 years or so would be a song like “S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)” from 2016’s Syro. Just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? 

Before that he used a lot of anagrams, and threw Cornish words into the mix in case anybody thought it was too accessible.

But on his debut album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (released in ’92 so now about 30 years ago), he mainly uses Greek sounding names, instead of random strings of letters, numbers and symbols that look like error codes from alien computers…

“Ageispolis” is very listenable, a tidy and clean piece of electro-esque goodness. There’s no glitches or stutters, and the melodies are all very straightforward, including a beeping synth riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on a pop track. That said, it is still very much an Aphex Twin production, with layers of dense atmospheric pads smothering a distorted bassline.

It’s very calming stuff, and all the more so for its simplicity.

Fantastic.

19/08/2018: “Icct Hedral (Phillip Glass Orchestration) by Aphex Twin

Phillip Glass is a leftfield minimalist composer. Aphex Twin is an extremely leftfield electronic music producer. This song is a fusion of their enormous talents.

There’s a possibly apocryphal story about Richard D. James (Aphex) writing a letter asking Phillip Glass if he could take the Icct Hedral track from the 1995 Aphex Twin album … I Care Because You Do, and get it recorded with proper instruments. The original song is good, but it doesn’t have the same clarity and sense of tension.

Phillip Glass takes the original song and arranges it for an orchestra, and in doing so reveals the true magnificence of the song. It is a masterpiece. It’s  constantly on edge, a paranoid and sombre string piece reminiscent of George Xenakis. If the song was manifested in physical form, it would be a forest of fossilised trees shrouded in fog. Terrifying, but spectacular.

The updated version of the song was released on the E.P. Donkey Rhubarb, in 1995.

Geniuses, the both of them.