Selected Ambient Works 85–92

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Selected Ambient Works 85–92
Selected Ambient Works 85-92.png
Studio album by
Released9 November 1992 (1992-11-09)[1][2]
ProducerRichard D. James
Richard D. James chronology
Joyrex J5 EP
Selected Ambient Works 85–92
Analogue Bubblebath Vol 3
Aphex Twin album chronology
Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Selected Ambient Works Volume II

Selected Ambient Works 85–92 is the debut studio album by Aphex Twin, the pseudonym of British electronic musician Richard D. James. It was released on 9 November 1992 through Apollo Records, a subsidiary of Belgian label R&S Records.[1][2] The album consists of beat-orientated ambient tracks recorded onto cassette reputedly dating as far back as 1985, when James was thirteen to fourteen years old.[3] An analogue remaster of the album was released in 2006, followed by a digital remaster in 2008.

Upon its release, Selected Ambient Works 85–92 received widespread acclaim, and has been considered a landmark in the fields of electronica, ambient techno, and intelligent dance music. James followed up the album in 1994 with the more traditionally ambient Selected Ambient Works Volume II. In 2012, it was named the greatest album of the 1990s by Fact.[9] It entered the UK Dance Albums Chart at number 30 after the release of Aphex Twin's 2014 album Syro.[10]


James began experimenting with musical instruments, such as his family's piano, at an early age.[11] He claimed to have 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,[12] and also began reassembling and modifying his own synthesizers.[11] James said he composed ambient music the following year.[13] In an interview with Q magazine in 2014, James stated that the ambient track 'i' emerged from those early recordings. 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.[14][15] 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".[15]

James' first release, under the alias Aphex Twin, 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".[16] He wrote "Digeridoo" to clear up his audience after a rave.[15] Although he moved to London to take an electronics course at Kingston Polytechnic, he admitted to David Toop that his electronics studies were being abandoned as he pursued a career in the techno genre.[12][17] 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.[6]

Composition and design[edit]

Selected Ambient Works was reputedly recorded between 1985 and 1992 (beginning when James was fourteen)[3] using homemade equipment constructed from standard synthesisers,[8] as well as drum machines.[18] The recording's sound quality has been described as poor due to it being recorded onto a cassette damaged by a cat.[19]

AllMusic noted that the album draws from the club rhythms of techno and acid house, but adds melodic elements "of great subtlety, beauty, and atmospheric texture."[8] Record Collector stated that the album "demonstrated a mysterious, calmer side" of James's music in contrast to his abrasive earlier releases, calling attention to the presence of "unearthly, gorgeous melodies" on most of the album's tracks.[20] Rolling Stone described the album as "fusing lush soundscapes with oceanic beats and bass lines."[3] DJ Mag noted its "synthesis of elements from hip-hop, hardcore, 'true' ambient, house and techno."[21] Pitchfork stated that "despite the simplicity of his equipment and approach, the songs here are both interesting and varied, ranging from the dancefloor-friendly beats of 'Pulsewidth' to the industrial clanks and whirs of 'Green Calx.'"[18] Slant noted the use of "diffusive synth chords" throughout the album, and called attention to James's "pop sensibility" on tracks such as "Pulsewidth" and "Ptolemy."[5] Many reviewers suggested that James was influenced by the ambient works of Brian Eno,[22] though James claims not to have heard Eno before he began recording.[23]

Various tracks utilise samples: "We Are the Music Makers" features Gene Wilder's recitation of "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams" from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's poem Ode, from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. "Green Calx" contains samples from the 1987 film RoboCop and from the 1978 track "Fodderstompf" by Public Image Ltd, as well as distortion of the opening titles of John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing.[14]

The album's sleeve prominently displays the Aphex Twin symbol, designed by Paul Nicholson who was also a stage dancer at several of James's live gigs. Nicholson stated that the duo's intention for the logo was to be an "amorphic and soft form with no sharp lines".[24]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[25]
Mojo4/5 stars[26]
Q5/5 stars[27]
Record Collector5/5 stars[20]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[28]
Slant Magazine4/5 stars[5]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[29]

Selected Ambient Works 85–92 was released in November 1992 by Apollo, a subdivision of Belgian record label R&S Records.[1][2] James departed from R&S Records after the release of SAW 85–92 to focus on Rephlex Records.[30]

Selected Ambient Works has been critically acclaimed.[22] Simon Reynolds, writing in the 1994 Spin Alternative Record Guide, gave the album a 9 rating.[29] In 2012, Reynolds wrote that the album "infuses everyday life with a perpetual first flush of spring."[31] John Bush of AllMusic described the album as "one of the indisputable classics of electronica, and a defining document for ambient music in particular."[8] Reviewing the album after it was reissued by PIAS America in 2002, Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill called it a "gorgeous, ethereal album" in which James "proved that techno could be more than druggy dance music."[3] David M. Pecoraro of Pitchfork noted "the creeping basslines, the constantly mutating drum patterns, the synth tones which moved with all the grace and fluidity of a professional dancer," describing the album as "among the most interesting music ever created with a keyboard and a computer" despite its "primitive origins".[18]

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.[22] In 2003, the album was placed number 92 in NME's "100 Best Albums" poll.[32] Nine years later, it was named the greatest album of the 1990s by Fact magazine.[9] The album was also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. AllMusic called it "a masterpiece of ambient techno, the genre's second work of brilliance after the Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld".[6] In 2017, Pitchfork named it the best IDM album of all time.[7]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Richard D. James.

6."Green Calx"6:05
8."We Are the Music Makers"7:43
9."Schottkey 7th Path"5:08


Credits adapted from Selected Ambient Works 85–92 liner notes.[33]


Chart (2014) Peak
UK Dance Albums (OCC)[10] 30


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[34]
sales since 2011
Silver 60,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b c Apollo Records. "Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Bandcamp. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The Aphex Effect". Future Music. Bath: Future Publishing. April 1993. pp. 22–23. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Blashill, Pat (12 December 2002). "Selected Ambient Works 85–92 : Aphex Twin". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  4. ^ Bush, John. "Drukqs – Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Cinquemani, Sal (2 November 2002). "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Aphex Twin | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b "The 50 Best IDM Albums of All Time". Pitchfork. 24 January 2017. p. 5. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Tognazzini, Anthony. "Selected Ambient Works 85–92 – Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b "The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s". Fact. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Official Dance Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  11. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (21 June 2010). "A Classic Aphex Twin Interview. Simon Reynolds Talks To Richard D. James". The Quietus. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b O'Connell, John (October 2001). "Untitled". The Face. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  13. ^ Anderson, Don (1999). "Aphex Twin: Mad Musician or Investment Banker?". Space Age Bachelor. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  14. ^ a b Jordan (9 December 2011). "My Year in Lists: Week Forty-Nine". Review To Be Named. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d Robinson, Dave (April 1993). "The Aphex Effect". Future Music. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  16. ^ Wilson-Claridge, Grant (30 November 1992). "~~~ The definitive RePHLeX ~~~". alt.rave. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  17. ^ Toop, David (March 1994). "Lost in space". The Face. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  18. ^ a b c d Pecoraro, David M. (20 February 2002). "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Pitchfork. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  19. ^ Bush, John. "Selected Ambient Works 85–92 – Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  20. ^ a b Needs, Kris (June 2008). "Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Record Collector (350). Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  21. ^ Murphy, Ben. "SOLID GOLD: HOW APHEX TWIN'S 'SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS 85-92' REFINED DANCE MUSIC". DJ Mag. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  22. ^ a b c George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia, eds. (2005). "Aphex Twin". The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. New York: Fireside. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7432-9201-6.
  23. ^ "They thought I was the only one". Junglizt. 1996. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  26. ^ "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Mojo (175): 121. June 2008.
  27. ^ "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Q (263): 156. June 2008.
  28. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004). "Aphex Twin". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 21–23. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  29. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (1995). "Aphex Twin". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  30. ^ Weidenbaum, Marc (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.
  31. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. 156–7. ISBN 1-5937-6407-3.
  32. ^ "NME's 100 Best Albums". NME. 2003. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  33. ^ Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (booklet). Aphex Twin. Apollo Records. 1992. AMB 3922 CD.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  34. ^ "British album certifications – Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2021.


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

External links[edit]