I think musing on the persona of the Cornish Richard James in depth amounts to window dressing. The guy does what he wants, largely on his own terms, and has entertained and occasionally irritated me to this affect. He probably doesn’t care too much about things like this. Aphex deserves his massive reputation and resultant trappings because he’s released a lot of electronic music under various monikers, and enough of it has been brilliant, innovative, or brilliantly introductory. His 1996 album Richard D James is probably my favourite Aphex Twin album, and an easy access portal to quite leftfield electronic music. It sits alongside Squarepusher’s Go Plastic and Nightmares on Wax’s Smokers Delight, Warp albums that showcase my favourite things about the creator(s) in an immediate and constantly arresting fashion. It’s hyper-energetic and playfully mesmeric, cohesive aside the confines of “drill and bass” or pastoral techno.
Consistency prevents the album from becoming at all difficult to live with. It clatters, pops and shimmers to induce a multiplicity of moods, but I can listen all the way through as readily as when say, Blue Lines is on my headphones. There’s a good kind of simplicity in tandem. “Goon Gumpas” could be the loveliest schmaltz disguised as heart prodding brilliance, whereas “4” evokes a sense of power cereal characters dancing round my head with pneumatics. Literally speaking, “Logon Rock Witch” is the sound of springy things bringing to mind a melodic exorcism. “Girl/Boy Song” benefits from having so much going on, frying the brain classically. “Carn Marth” induces bliss like a bank of slot machines amped on video game bass and rave.
It would betray the reasons I love Richard D. James to wax lyrical about experimental genius and it being a leftfield masterpiece too much. That’s all good, and true to an extent. At the same time, it’s a collection of funny, sad and wonderful synthetic sounds capable on having an impact beyond impression.
We care because he’s good.
The Tuss – Rushup Edge
Aphex Twin – Girl/Boy EP
Various Artists – The Braindance Coincidence