Selected Ambient Works 85–92
|Selected Ambient Works 85–92|
|Studio album by|
|Released||9 November 1992|
|Producer||Richard D. James|
|Aphex Twin chronology|
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 as a very limited import in November 1992 by Apollo Records, a subsidiary of Belgian label R&S Records, and later widely in February 1993. The album features tracks recorded onto cassette reputedly dating as far back as 1985, when James was fourteen years old. An analogue remaster was released in 2006, and a digital remaster in 2008.
Selected Ambient Works 85–92 received widespread acclaim and is considered a landmark of electronica, ambient techno, and intelligent dance music. It was followed in 1994 by the more traditionally ambient Selected Ambient Works Volume II. In 2012, it was named the greatest album of the 1990s by Fact. It entered at 30 on the UK Dance Albums Chart after the release of Aphex's 2014 album Syro.
James began experimenting with musical instruments, such as his family's piano, at an early age. 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, and also began reassembling and modifying his own synthesizers. According to musician Benjamin Middleton, James began producing music at age 12. James said he composed ambient music the following year. 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. 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' first release as Aphex Twin, was the 1991 12-inch EP Analogue Bubblebath on Mighty Force Records before later issues used the pseudonym AFX. 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 former bank building. 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.
Selected Ambient Works was reputedly recorded between 1985 and 1992 (beginning when James was fourteen) using homemade equipment constructed from standard synthesisers. Drum machines, synthesised bass, and keyboard sounds serve as the basis of the album. The recording's sound quality has been described as poor due to it being recorded onto a cassette damaged by a cat.
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." Rolling Stone described the album as "fusing lush soundscapes with oceanic beats and bass lines." 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. 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.'" 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." Many reviewers suggested that James was influenced by the ambient works of Brian Eno, though James claims not to have heard Eno before he began recording.
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.
Reception and legacy
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||9/10|
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. John Bush of AllMusic described the album as "one of the indisputable classics of electronica, and a defining document for ambient music in particular. Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill called it a "gorgeous, ethereal album" in which James "proved that techno could be more than druggy dance music." Critic Simon Reynolds wrote that the album "infuses everyday life with a perpetual first flush of spring." When it was reissued by PIAS America in 2002, 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". 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. In 2003, the album was placed number 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. AllMusic called it "a masterpiece of ambient techno, the genre's second work of brilliance after the Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld".
All tracks composed and arranged by Richard D. James.
|8.||"We Are the Music Makers"||7:43|
|9.||"Schottkey 7th Path"||5:08|
As credited on the album's liner notes:
|UK Dance Albums Chart||30|
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- "Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85–92". Q (263): 156. June 2008.
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- Weidenbaum, Marc (13 February 2014). "Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II". 33⅓ series. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group: 1. ISBN 978-1-62356-763-7.
- Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. 156–7.
- Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (booklet). Aphex Twin. R&S Records. 1992.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.