Selected Ambient Works 85–92
|Selected Ambient Works 85–92|
|Studio album by Aphex Twin|
|Released||12 February 1992|
|Genre||Ambient techno, IDM|
|Label||Apollo (AMB 3922)|
|Producer||Richard D. James|
|Aphex Twin chronology|
Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (or Selected Ambient Works 85 to 92) is the debut album by English electronic musician Richard D. James, released under the pseudonym of Aphex Twin. The 1992 LP, on the Belgian techno label Apollo, was his third release. An analogue remaster was released in 2006, and a digital remaster in 2008. Selected Ambient Works 85–92 was appreciated for its minimalist and atmospheric nature and is considered by many music critics to be one of the greatest albums in ambient, IDM, and electronic music. It has since influenced several electronic artists and was followed by Selected Ambient Works Volume II. On the week ending on September 27, 2014, the album entered at #30 in the UK Dance Albums Chart after the release of his 2014 album Syro.
James was born in Limerick, Ireland and grew up in Lanner, Cornwall with two older sisters, in a "very happy" childhood during which they "were pretty much left to do what [they] wanted". He enjoyed living there, feeling apart from nearby cities and the rest of the world. James attended Redruth School in Redruth, Cornwall, and claimed to had won 50 pounds in a competition to make a program that produced sound on a Sinclair ZX81 (a machine with no sound hardware) at age 11. He subsequently created music using a ZX Spectrum and a sampler.
As a teenager James gained a cult following being a disc jockey at the Shire Horse Inn in St Ives, with Tom Middleton at the Bowgie Inn in Crantock and along the beaches around Cornwall, learning new musical techniques. He studied at Cornwall College from 1988 to 1990 for a National Diploma in engineering. About his studies, he said "music and electronics went hand in hand". James graduated from college; according to an engineering lecturer he often wore headphones during practical lessons, "no doubt thinking through the mixes he'd be working on later".
James' first release as Aphex Twin, later changed to AFX, was the 1991 12-inch EP Analogue Bubblebath on Mighty Force Records. In 1991, James and Grant Wilson-Claridge founded Rephlex Records to promote "innovation in the dynamics of acid — a much-loved and misunderstood genre of house music forgotten by some and indeed new to others, especially in Britain". He wrote "Digeridoo" to clear up his audience after a rave. From 1991 to 1993 James released two Analogue Bubblebath EPs as AFX and an EP, Bradley's Beat, as Bradley Strider. Although he moved to London to take an electronics course at Kingston Polytechnic, he admitted to David Toop that his electronics studies were being evacuated as he pursued a career in the techno genre. Although he allegedly lived on the roundabout in Elephant and Castle, South London during his early years there, he actually resided in a nearby unoccupied bank. While performing at clubs and with a small underground following, James went on to release SAW 85-92, which was mostly recorded before he started DJing and consisted of instrumental songs that were mostly beat-oriented.
Recording and production
According to musician Benjamin Middleton, James began producing music at age 12. James said he composed ambient techno music the following year. According to several music journals, including the iTunes store, the "slightly poor" sound quality was due to the cassette tape being attacked by James' cat.
Album version, as it appeared on Selected Ambient Works 85–92
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Although Selected Ambient Works is primarily instrumental, many of the songs use samples. "Xtal" includes a repeating female vocal sample along with interchanging ambient sounds, while "Tha" has clips of several people talking. "We Are the Music Makers" features "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams", a line of dialogue from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; Writing for entertainment website Review To Be Needed, Jordan believed that the sample grew from a pop culture quote to a meaningful statement as the song developed. "Green Calx" contains samples from RoboCop: the dinosaur's popping eyes during the 6000 SUX TV ad, the ED-209 robot trying to go downstairs without success, and the sound of RoboCop browsing faces of criminals in the police archives computer. "Green Calx" also contains a faint sample of the vocal from "Fodderstompf" by Public Image Ltd, as well as distortion of the opening titles of John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing.
Reception and legacy
|The Tiny Home Central||(positive)|
Selected Ambient Works 85–92 was released on 12 February 1992 by Apollo, a subdivision of Belgian record label R&S Records. James departed from R&S Records after the release of SAW 85–92 to focus on Rephlex Records.
Selected Ambient Works has been critically acclaimed for its beat-driven, simple and atmospheric nature, and many reviewers suggested that James developed from the works of Brian Eno, to whom the electronic musician had not listened until he made his early recordings. John Bush of Allmusic felt Ambient Works is sparse with eerie synth lines and narrow percussion and described it as a "watershed of ambient music". He noticed the album's poor sound quality since it was recorded onto a cassette damaged by a cat. When it was reissued by PIAS America in 2002, David M. Pecoraro of Pitchfork Media likened its synth tones to a professional dancer and appreciated the album as "among the most interesting music ever created with a keyboard and a computer", despite dissatisfaction with the album's "primitive origins". Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill thought the album combined minimal drums and bass with abundant soundscapes. Eric Weisbard and Craig Marks, authors of the Spin Alternative Record Guide, gave it a 9 rating and called James a "noise-for-noise's sake".
Widely regarded by critics as one of the pioneering works in early IDM and modern electronic music, retrospective reviews mention its influence on electronic artists. Warp Records refers to it as "the birthplace and the benchmark of modern electronic music" and has stated that "every home should have a copy." In 2003, the album was placed #92 in "NME's 100 Best Albums" poll (link). Nine years later, it was named the greatest album of the 1990s by FACT Magazine. The album was also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
A remastered SAW 85–92 Compact Disc was released by Apollo/R&S Records on 8 April 2008. The remastered 12" vinyl record was released in 2006.
All tracks composed and arranged by Richard D. James.
|8.||"We Are the Music Makers"||7:43|
|9.||"Schottkey 7th Path"||5:08|
Credits from Selected Ambient Works 85–92 taken from liner notes.
|UK Dance Albums Chart||30|
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- "They thought I was the only one". Junglizt. 1996. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
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- "The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". Factmag.com. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
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- Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.