April 24, 2008

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works Volume II

Artist:Aphex Twinn
Album: Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Year: 1994
Country:United Kingdom

Aphex Twin
(born Richard David James on August 18, 1971 in Limerick, Ireland) is a British/ Irish electronic music artist. He has been described as "the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music.Richard James says he crafts techno symphonies in his head while he sleeps, but judging from the unsettling nature of many of his songs, it appears he doesn't slumber too peacefully.Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II is the two-disc follow-up to the import-only Selected Ambient Works 85-92, the album that established the Cornwall, England, native as the pioneer of ambient techno, a musical style that converts the energized electrobeats and keyboard surges of dance-floor techno into slower, more tranquil sound washes.
On Vol. II
, James turns away from the glut of soulless techno by stripping away its base properties, focusing more intently on mood than on rhythm and melody. Most of the songs rely on eerie synth effects layered within sparsely repeated or sustained notes and blips that pulse like distant stars. Few use beats. Indeed, it's the absence of beats that makes the music so strange and haunting, and when beats do surface, they serve to accent a tone rather than sustain a tempo.

An Ambient Masterpiece!!

"Quite simply put, the greatest electronic CD that I own, and quite possibly in the top ten over all (this is battling with the likes of Mozart and Bach, mind you.) Not only is this the CD that introduced me to Aphex Twin, it is the CD that launched me into a world of experimemtal, ambient, and IDM sounds. Every once in a while you get something that changes your life, and I can honestly say this changed my life -- and it continues to do so, nearly a decade later. I've listened to this one so many times, sometimes all day long on loop. There isn't a single song that gets old for me.
Another thing is that it does not feel dated, despite using equipment and techniques that are now inferior -- it is almost as if the hissing and sometimes marred samples were all meant to be that way. Ambient Works I has not aged so well, unfortunately. Part of it has to do with the utter atmospheric quality of the tracks. Some of them seem more akin to forgotten wind chimes on a depression era porch out in the middle of Kansas. There isn't ever a feeling that this is electronic, even though it plainly is. There is no "right" way to listen to this music. I've listened to it in the background with my parents while discussing philosophy; In a hot bath with flickering candles; in the wee hours of the morning writing software; weeping in bed; painting; softly; so loud the walls shake; sitting on the porch; cooking food; making love -- I've done it all, and never has it felt out place. It taints whatever you are doing and enhances it. It is brain food. My best artistic inspirations have unfolded during some of its darkest tracks. It will creep you out. You'll find yourself madly humming its non-sense sonic riddles during the day. It's ironic, the reason I diverged from my prior listening tastes into the word it opened up was to find more music like it. I've found a lot of stuff I really love as a result -- but I have yet to this day found anything like SAW2, and I doubt I ever will. It used to depress me, but now I don't mind. The original craving for more has been fulfilled by the timeless quality it provides."(discogs.com)

"I bought this album not knowing what it was. I had just gotten into several other Aphex Twin albums and thought this would be another of his noisy masterpieces. It is not noisy, but a masterpiece nonetheless. It was my first true introduction to ambient music and it has remained my favorite ambient record ever since.
SAWII is a true listening experience. Only a couple tracks (out of twenty-four) contain beats. There are no vocals except for a few muted, muffled samples. The record consists of long, slow repeating electronic tones, bells, piano, static, and odd noises. Each listener has his/her own experience. Like other reviewers before me, I suggest listening to it alone and with good speakers or headphones. I would not say that it is driving music, unless you are driving alone in the mountains in the middle of the night. Put the record on, close your eyes and see the images that the music creates in your head. The music is at times eerie, beautiful, achingly sad, and downright scary. I visualize vast imagery when playing this record: alien landscapes, endless droning machinery, the dark depths of oceanic caves, beautiful mountain sunrises, and sometimes imagery that cannot even be put into words. There is no comparison."(Scott Wejmar)

"As when this collection was released in 1994, SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOL. II continues to confound techno fans and musicologists alike. Richard James working under his most famous guise, Aphex Twin, released this collection which is still one of the most significant electronic albums ever released and, yes, RDJ is both a genius and a calculated, smart-arsed iconoclast, but a con-artist he ain't. Many people appear to be so outraged by this album (what no song titles? where are the hum-along melodies? where are the dance beats?) that they are prone to ridicule it with knee jerk 1-star reviews -- you can almost visualize the terror in their eyes when their notions of music have been turned upside-down by this album. Frequently devoid of percussion, the musicscapes and tone poems found here are a mix of the profoundly beautiful, terrifying and dissonant. This album is for anyone with enough musical sense to look beyond standard pop music structure and dance beats and a willingness to explore darker, abstract and frequently microtonal electronic music like you've never heard before. If you can appreciate Xenakis, John Cage, Brian Eno, Stockhausen and other early electronic/ambient/avant-garde pioneers then this album is a must. Granted, a few tracks are downright grating, but even they have their place on this album. Now that electronica is a bonafide genre choked with literally thousands of subpar artists and compilations, this album stands as a rare, mind-altering jewel ... now more than ever."(Michael Paulsen)


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