Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)

Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)

I stumbled upon this album not by accident, because it has been listed as one of the main influences by several artists, and it was in my “must check out” list for a long time. I mean, I wasn’t in a hurry because the album is about to turn 20 years since its release, so another couple of months would not hurt anyone.

Even though I don’t like to start a new listening experience with preconceived ideas or with a biased mentality towards something in particular, due to the aging nature of the album I was honestly expecting something more crude, something that would pale in comparison to the standards we’ve become used to these days. But it wasn’t anything like I was fearing it would be. Yes, the sound feels a little bit dated, the quality isn’t exactly the best I would have hoped for even in a FLAC format, but hey, we are not here to criticize technical details as I’m sure the copy I got must be the responsible for that.

As the title implies, this is a selection of ambient works, and truth be told, this feels more like old school techno than ambient, but the elements are all there for you to explore, and there’s definitely something for everybody (as long as they are into the electronic genre of course). For the most part the album is dominated by beats and some vocal samples scattered very scarcely, it never reaches the point where it actually feels like the pace is toning down although it is still capable of deliver some interesting relaxing moments.

Something funny is that if you never listened to this until this day, once you start listening to it you have the impression that this is some very basic stuff, it isn’t anything like the complex and layered ambient / electronic works we have nowadays. It does have arguments to stand its point, and although it relies heavily on basic beat structures and loops with minimal sampling here and there, you can find yourself recognizing those very elements as the precursor of many modern-day masterpieces. Field recording and subtle nature recording scattered around some of the tracks reminded me of why Aphex Twin is listed as one of the main influences for many artists related to the IDM genre.

On the other hand, if you are not actually with a stick picking the songs to discover its inner workings, like a kid would do, you might end up just letting this sit on the background and it becomes just an ambient soundtrack… oh wait, is that how this is supposed to work in the first place? I might have just discovered by accident the true nature of this album.

Now, seriously, the best way to enjoy this album is doing just that. If you try too hard to focus on the details and find hidden stuff, I don’t think this is the best place for that. The songs are for the most part long loops featuring repetitive (although not tiring) compositions that work best when you’re not actually in a quest for finding mind-blowing details meant for those willing to invest countless hours listening to the same songs over and over.

This is a simple album, and simple in the sense that you will not find more by digging deeper. Everything is there for you to grab without having to understand obscure references and confusing mental states in order to get everything that is supposed to come with this. Also, as a side note, this album was included in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die series of books, so this is me doing you a favor and letting you know that after listening to this you will probably just have 1000 albums left to listen.

 

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