Selected Ambient Works 85–92

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Selected Ambient Works 85–92
Studio album by Aphex Twin
Released 12 February 1992 (1992-02-12)
Recorded 1985–1992
Genre Ambient techno, IDM
Length 74:21
Label Apollo (AMB 3922)
Producer Richard D. James
Aphex Twin chronology
Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Xylem Tube EP

Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (or Selected Ambient Works 85 to 92) is the debut studio album by English electronic musician Aphex Twin (Richard D. James). His third release and under the alias, it was released in 1992 on the Belgian techno label Apollo. An analogue remaster was released in 2006, and a digital remaster was released 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 dance music.[1] It has since influenced several electronic artists and was followed by Selected Ambient Works Volume II.


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".[2] He enjoyed living there, feeling apart from nearby cities and the rest of the world.[3] James attended Redruth School in Redruth, Cornwall,[4] 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.[2]

As a teenager he was 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. James 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".[5] 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".[6]

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".[7] 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. After leaving school James remained in London, releasing albums and EPs on Warp Records and other labels under a number of aliases (including AFX, Polygon Window and Power-Pill); several of his tracks, released under pseudonyms including Blue Calx and The Dice Man, appeared on compilations. Although he allegedly lived on the roundabout in Elephant and Castle, South London during his early years in the city, he actually lived in a nearby unoccupied bank.[2][8] 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.[9]

Recording and production[edit]

According to musician Benjamin Middleton, James began producing music the following year.[10] James said he composed ambient techno music at age 13.[11]


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 feature samples. "Xtal" features a repeating wordless female vocal sampled from the library music Evil at Play. "Tha" has clips of several people talking, while "Actium" has samples of what sound like squeaking shoes in a hallway. "We Are the Music Makers" features a line of dialogue from the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. "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[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[12]
Blender 4/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media (9.4/10)[13]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[15]
Q Magazine 5/5 stars [16]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[17]
Spin 9/10 stars[18]
The Tiny Home Central (positive)[19]

Selected Ambient Works 85–92 was released on 12 February 1992 by Apollo, a subdivision of Belgian record label R&S Records.[12][20] James departed from R&S Records after the release of SAW 85–92 to focus on Rephlex Records.[21]

Selected Ambient Works was critically acclaimed upon release for its beat-driven, simple and atmospheric nature, and many reviewers suggested that James developed from the works of Brian Eno,[22] for whom the electronic musician had not listened to until he made his early recordings.[23] 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".[12] When it was reissued by PIAS America in 2002, David M. Pecoraro of Pitchfork Media commented: "The creeping basslines, the constantly mutating drum patterns, the synth tones which moved with all the grace and fluidity of a professional dancer, the strange noises that I'd be unable to identify even if I tried."[13] Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill thought SAW 85–92 combined minimal drums and bass with abundant soundscapes and called it "majestic".[15]

Selected Ambient Works has been widely regarded by critics as an James' best work and one of the most important ambient and electronic music albums.[22] Warp Records considers it as "the birthplace and the benchmark of modern electronic music" and has stated that "every home should have a copy."[24] In 2003, the album was placed #92 in "NME's 100 Best Albums" poll (link). It was named the greatest album of the 1990s by FACT Magazine.[25] 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.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed and arranged by Richard D. James.

No. Title Length
1. "Xtal"   4:54
2. "Tha"   9:06
3. "Pulsewidth"   3:46
4. "Ageispolis"   5:23
5. "i"   1:17
6. "Green Calx"   6:05
7. "Heliosphan"   4:51
8. "We Are the Music Makers"   7:43
9. "Schottkey 7th Path"   5:08
10. "Ptolemy"   7:10
11. "Hedphelym"   6:00
12. "Delphium"   5:26
13. "Actium"   7:32


  1. ^ a b Cinquemani, Sal. "Selected Ambient Works 85-92> Review". Slant Magazine Inc. Retrieved 2 November 2002. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Connell, John (October 2001). "Untitled". The Face. EMAP. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008. 
  3. ^ Stern, Theresa (September 1997). "Interview by Theresa Stern". The Aphex Twin Community. Archived from the original on 2 April 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008. 
  4. ^ Stuart Aitken (28 November 2003). "Rephlexology". 
  5. ^ Robinson, Dave (April 1993). "The Aphex Effect". Future Music. 
  6. ^ Murray, Janet (12 June 2007). "College days". The Guardian (London: Guardian Media Group). Archived from the original on 26 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008. 
  7. ^ Wilson-Claridge, Grant (30 November 1992). "~~~ The definitive RePHLeX ~~~". alt.rave. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008. 
  8. ^ Toop, David (March 1994). "Lost in space". The Face. EMAP. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008. 
  9. ^ Bush, John. "Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Middleton, Benjamin (October 1992). "~~ rephlex ~~ aphex ~~ drn ~~". alt.rave. 
  11. ^ Anderson, Don (1999). "Aphex Twin: Mad Musician or Investment Banker?". Space Age Bachelor. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Selected Ambient Works 85-92 > Overview". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Pecoraro, David M. (20 February 2002). "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92: Pitchfork Record Review". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  14. ^ "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 | Music Review". Slant Magazine. 2 November 2002. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Blashill, Pat (12 December 2002). "Selected Ambient Works 85-92 : Aphex Twin : Review : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. RealNetworks, Inc. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Selected Ambient Works 85-92 - Aphex Twin > Review". Muze Inc. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  18. ^ Weisbard & Marks, 1995. p.15
  19. ^ The Tiny Home Central. "Selected Ambient Works 85-92". The Aphex Twin Community. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "Aphex Twin Charts & Awards Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  21. ^ Weidenbaum, Marc (13 February 2014). Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II. 33⅓ series. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-62356-763-7. 
  22. ^ a b George-Warren, Holly and Patricia Romanowski, ed. (2005). "Aphex Twin". The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. New York City: Fireside. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7432-9201-6. 
  23. ^ "They thought I was the only one". Junglizt. 1996. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  24. ^ Blashill, Pat (12 December 2005). "Selected Ambient Works 85-92 : Aphex Twin : Review : Mahalo". Mahalo. Mahalo, Inc. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  25. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 


  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 

External links[edit]