|Single by Aphex Twin|
|B-side||"ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] + Fexti[[n−1]]"
|Released||22 March 1999|
|Genre||Glitch, techno, IDM|
WAP105 (United Kingdom)
35007 (rest of world)
|Writer(s)||Richard D. James|
|Producer||Richard D. James|
|Aphex Twin singles chronology|
"Windowlicker" is a song by British electronic music artist Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), released as a single in 1999 on Warp Records. The single peaked at #16 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming his highest-charting song. The song was later voted, by fans, as Warp Records' most popular song, for its Warp20 compilation.
"Windowlicker" consists of James' voice modulated on computer, mixed with his trademark breakbeat snare rushes, drum samples, and mixed choir-like singing, resulting in a smooth yet erratic song, its last minute escalating into an extremely distorted wall of bass. Also included is a sample of James' French then-girlfriend speaking in her native tongue saying either J'aime faire des croquettes au chien (translating to "I like to make dog nuggets") or J'aime faire des cracottes au chien (translating to "I like to make dog crisp breads").
A spectrogram of "Windowlicker" reveals a spiral at the end of the song. This spiral is more impressive when viewed with an X-Y scatter graph, X and Y being the amplitudes of the L and R channels, which shows expanding and contracting concentric circles and spirals.
The effect was achieved through use of the Mac-based program MetaSynth. This program allows the user to insert a digital image as the spectrogram. MetaSynth will then convert the spectrogram to digital sound and "play" the picture. According to an article on the website Wired News, photographs run through the program tend to produce "a kind of discordant, metallic scratching".
It is one of a few instances of musicians "embedding" images into their music. British band Plaid embedded a series of interlocked 3's into their song "3 Recurring" from their album Rest Proof Clockwork; Canadian breakcore producer Venetian Snares embedded several images of his cats into his song "Look" from Songs About My Cats; industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails embedded an image of "The Presence" into two songs from their album Year Zero, "The Warning" and "My Violent Heart."
The "Windowlicker" single contains its titular track and two B-sides. Track two, commonly known as "[Formula]" or "[Equation]" due to its actual title being a complex mathematical formula ("ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] + Fexti[[n−1]]"), has a very experimental sound. Track three, "Nannou", dedicated to his then-girlfriend, is made up of wind-up music box samples.
Viewing a spectrogram of track two, with the frequency axis in a logarithmic scale, reveals hidden images of James' face that were apparently synthesized as sound by Aphex Twin for the express purpose of being discovered in this manner.
"Windowlicker" received positive reviews from critics. Allmusic gave the single 4 out of a maximum 5 stars. The single was named NME's Single of the Year 1999 in its year-end charts. James sent NME the following missive in acceptance:
Smart! Thank you very much for voting for my track/s. I've had a very good year as usual, although it was very intense, getting on a really big roll, writing new stuff constantly, really looking forward to isolating myself next year even more! Hope everyone has a totally boring New Year's party, overdoses on everything and chokes on their own vomit on the bathroom floor, make sure you lie face down just before you pass out!
The music video for "Windowlicker" was directed by Chris Cunningham, who had also directed Aphex Twin's previous music video, "Come to Daddy". It is a ten-minute long parody of contemporary American gangsta hip-hop music videos. In the video, two foul-mouthed young men (a Latino and an African American) in Los Angeles are window shopping for women (referred to in the end credits as "hoochies"); the French term for window shopping is faire du lèche-vitrine, which literally translates to "licking the windows". Suddenly, a ridiculously long white limousine (38 windows in length, including driver's window, which takes 20 seconds to fully display) crashes into the two men's black Mazda Miata NA (MX5) convertible, and a "pimped-out" Richard D. James, displaying a surreal amount of wealth and power, emerges with his signature fixed grin. The two women, among others, accompany James in his limousine while their faces morph into James' own likeness, and are later joined by a woman with a horrifically ugly, buck-toothed, deformed face, which is a likeness of a sketch by Swiss artist H. R. Giger titled "The Windowlickers".
- Intro sequence – East 1st Street (bridge over railroad tracks)
- Aphex Twin dance sequence – Corner of Ducommun Street and North Vignes Street
- Limo ride externals – Beverly Boulevard
- Final dance sequence – Santa Monica Beach (Barnard Way and Ocean Park Boulevard)
There are 127 uses of profanity in the dialogue segment of the video (which is under 4 minutes), including 44 uses of the word fuck. This averages to more than one use of profanity every two seconds. The video was released as a VHS single, containing both uncut and censored versions (the latter being referred to as the "Bleep Version"). It was also nominated for the Best Video award at the BRIT Awards 2000, alongside videos by Supergrass, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and eventual winner Robbie Williams.
The full "Windowlicker" video is restricted to being broadcast only during the nighttime on most music television channels. A bleeped-out version of the video exists, and MTV Two even made a daytime version, with all the opening dialogue removed (the censored version starts with the arrival of the limousine) and some of the video's more shocking images are also removed. In 2008, MTV Networks Europe was fined by media regulator Ofcom for several breaches of its broadcasting code, including airing the uncensored version of the "Windowlicker" video before the 9pm watershed.
CD1 and 12-inch vinyl
|2.||"" (commonly referred to as "[Equation]" or "[Formula]")||5:43|
|1.||"Windowlicker" (original demo)||2:37|
- The "Windowlicker" video is also included in QuickTime format.
|4.||"Windowlicker" (demo version)||1:57|
|5.||"Windowlicker" (end-roll version)||1:07|
Remixes and samples
A remix of "Windowlicker" in the acid techno style, entitled "Windowlicker, Acid Edit", is available on the remix compilation 26 Mixes for Cash. Another remix of "Windowlicker", entitled "WINDuckyQuaCKer", appears on V/VM's HelpAphexTwin/1.0 (2001) and HelpAphexTwin 4.0 (2003). A remix entitled "it's a richJAMs World" appears on V/VM's HelpAphexTwin 4.0 (2003). Run Jeremy (an alias of Danish producer Anders Trentemøller) also made his own remix of "Windowlicker".
Miss Kittin performed Run Jeremy's remix of "Windowlicker live" at the Sónar festival and included it on her album Live at Sónar. Elements of "Windowlicker", including its heavily distorted outro, were sampled by American musician Girl Talk on his track "Get It Get It", from his 2010 album All Day.
Use in media
"Windowlicker" was featured in the 2006 film Grandma's Boy and in several episodes of the BBC motoring series Top Gear. A version of "Windowlicker" is used in the Voyage mode of Lumines Electronic Symphony, and another is used in the Dior Haute Couture A/W 2012 runway show.
- Electronic Music Mailing List Archives: idm - Re: Dissecting Windowlicker track #2
- Kahney, Leander (10 May 2002). "Hey, Who's That Face in My Song?". Wired News. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
- "The Warning - hidden image on Year Zero". MOG. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Warp / Records / Releases / Aphex Twin / Windowlicker". Warp. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- Bush, John (1999-02-23). "Windowlicker - Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- Windowlicker at Allmusic
- "Pitchfork Top 200 Tracks of the 90s". Pitchfork.com. 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Windowlicker artwork created by H.R Giger, 1999.". Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "Windowlicker Credits". Aphextwin.nu. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- Sweney, Mark (4 June 2008). "MTV fined £255k for offensive material". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- "V/VM - helpaphextwin v1.0". V/Vm Test Records. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- "V/VM - helpaphextwin v4.0". V/Vm Test Records. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- Miss Kittin - Live At Sónar Discogs. Retrieved 2010-07-16.
- "Girl Talk - All Day Samples List". Illegal-art.net. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Windowlicker" at the Warp Records website
- The "Windowlicker" video
- "Face the music" - from The Guardian Friday Review, 5 March 1999
- Spectrogram analysis of track 2 (The Aphex Face)
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics