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Single by Aphex Twin
  • Mi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n] [Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] + Fexti[n−1]]"
  • "Nannou"
Released22 March 1999
Songwriter(s)Richard D. James
Producer(s)Richard D. James
Aphex Twin singles chronology
"Come to Daddy"
"minipops 67 [120.2]"
Richard D. James singles chronology
"Caustic Window Compilation"
"2 Remixes by AFX"

"Windowlicker" is a song by British electronic musician Aphex Twin, released on 22 March 1999 as a single by Warp Records. The artwork for the single was created by Chris Cunningham, with additional work by The Designers Republic. Cunningham also directed the song's music video, which was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Video.[4]

The song peaked at number 16 on the UK Singles Chart, and was later voted by fans as Warp Records' most popular song for its 2009 Warp20 compilation. Pitchfork included the song at number 12 on their list Top 200 Tracks of the 90s.[5]



"Windowlicker" has been described variously as "uncompromising cyborg R&B",[3] "hip-hop written in the language of glitches",[6] and "eerie lounge-porn music";[7] the track's "sleazy, erotic ambiance connote[s] images and emotions alien to James's previous compositions."[8] Heavily digitally processed and rhythmically rearranged breakbeats prominently appear in the song's backing track. Gasps, vocal harmonies and moans reminiscent of sexual vocal tones "glide in and out of the production"; it has been speculated that, like in many of James's productions from the late 1990s, the vocals are his own.[9] The track consists of various sections, including a drum'n'bass intro, a "gooey middle section", and an abrasive noise ending, as well as featuring consistent melodic elements throughout.[5]

In 2012, Pitchfork stated that the track's futuristic elements presaged various musical developments, including "Flying Lotus' digital deconstruction, James Blake's bent vocals, [and] the wobble and knock of dubstep".[5] Similarly, Stereogum stated that "the song's mix of unpredictable syncopation, digital-dub alien transformations, errant noises, and bursts of melody would serve as a starting block for much of today's electronic music".[1] Additionally, Daft Punk credited "Windowlicker" as an influence on the direction of their stylistic approach on their 2001 album Discovery.[10]


The spiral at the end of the spectrogram for "Windowlicker"

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.[11] 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".[12]

A logarithmic spectrogram of "" (commonly known as 'Equation' or 'Formula') reveals a portrait of James' face near the end of the track, grinning.[12]

Single release[edit]

The "Windowlicker" single contains its title track and two B-sides. Track two, commonly known as "[Formula]",[13] "[Equation]", or, as translated on the Japanese edition, "[Symbol]", due to its actual title being a complex mathematical formula (""), has a very experimental sound.[citation needed] Track three, "Nannou", dedicated to his then-girlfriend, is made up of wind-up music box samples.[citation needed]

As of 2001, "Windowlicker" has sold over 300,000 copies.[14]

Music video[edit]

I don't really like it very much because it's me working in a slightly different area. It was fun though because it was just done in the spirit of trying to have a crack, I'm too much of a hip-hop fan to want to take the piss out of hip-hop.

Chris Cunningham, director[15]

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 in Los Angeles are window shopping for women; the French term for window shopping is faire du lèche-vitrine, which literally translates to "licking the windows"; "window licker" and "window licking" are pejorative British English terms.[16] They come across two women (referred to in the end credits as "hoochies") who repeatedly turn down their advances. Suddenly, a ridiculously long white limousine (38 windows in length, including the 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 hyperbolic amount of wealth and power, emerges with his signature fixed grin, at which point the song begins. After emerging from the limousine, James begins provocatively dancing with an umbrella bearing the Aphex Twin logo in an attempt to seduce the two women. The women then accompany James in his limousine while their faces morph into James' own likeness. When they emerge from the limousine's sunroof, the young men try to woo them again but fail. The men arrive at an area where James and a group of women bearing his face are dancing together, and they receive leis from two of the women. Their attention is eventually drawn to a dancing woman turned away from them, but she turns around to reveal a horrifically ugly, buck-toothed, deformed face (which was later illustrated in a sketch by Swiss artist H. R. Giger titled "The Windowlickers"[17]), much to the men's horror. The video ends with James' women dancing on Santa Monica Beach while James pops and sprays a bottle of champagne.

James's faces aren't digitally morphed on the women. Masks and make-up were specifically designed by the production, to achieve the desired morphing effect. The cast for the dialogue intro of the clip are Marcus Morris, Gary Cruz, Marcy Turner and Chiquita Martin.[18] Filming was done in the Los Angeles area. The locations are as follows:

  • Intro sequence – East 1st Street (bridge over railroad tracks)
  • Aphex Twin dance sequence – Corner of Ducommun Street and North Vignes Street[19]
  • Limo ride externals – Beverly Boulevard
  • Final dance sequence – Santa Monica Beach (Barnard Way and Ocean Park Boulevard)[20]

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".[21] 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").[13] 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.[22]

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), along with some of its more graphic images. In 2008, MTV Networks Europe was fined by the United Kingdom's media regulator Ofcom for several breaches of its broadcasting code, including airing the uncensored version of the "Windowlicker" video on TMF in 2006 before the 9 PM watershed.[23]


Professional ratings
Review scores
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[24]

"Windowlicker" received positive reviews from critics. AllMusic gave the EP 4/5 stars.[7] The single was named NME's Single of the Year 1999 in its year-end charts.[25] In September 2010, Pitchfork Media included the song at number 12 on their list Top 200 Tracks of the 90s.[5]

Remixes and use in other media[edit]

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)[26] and HelpAphexTwin 4.0 (2003).[27] A remix entitled "it's a richJAMs World" appears on V/VM's HelpAphexTwin 4.0 (2003).[27] Run Jeremy (an alias of Danish producer Anders Trentemøller) also made his own remix of "Windowlicker". Beardyman performed a live version of "Windowlicker" as part of his Edinburgh show in 2009.[28]

Miss Kittin performed Run Jeremy's remix of "Windowlicker live" at the Sónar festival and included it on her album Live at Sónar.[29] 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.[30]

The "Windowlicker" cover was featured in a cut scene from the 2000 film High Fidelity.[31]

A. G. Cook made a "note-for-note" cover of Windowlicker in 2017 as part of the PC Music compilation Month of Mayhem.[32]

"Windowlicker" is played almost in full in the 2018 Gaspar Noé film Climax.[33]

The ending section of "Windowlicker" is featured in the 2006 film Grandma's Boy.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written, produced and engineered by Richard D. James. The original single was released on 12-inch, two separate CDs, a special edition Japanese CD and VHS.

CD1 and 12-inch vinyl[edit]

2."" (commonly referred to as "[Equation]" or "[Formula]")5:43
Total length:16:03


1."Windowlicker" (original demo)2:37
  • The "Windowlicker" video is also included in QuickTime format.

Japanese version[edit]

4."Windowlicker" (demo version)1:57
5."Windowlicker" (end-roll version)1:07
Total length:19:13

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1999) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[34] 70
Denmark (Tracklisten)[35] 15
France (SNEP)[36] 60
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[37] 63
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[38] 33
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[39] 53
UK Singles (OCC)[40] 16
UK Dance (OCC)[41] 3
UK Indie (OCC)[42] 4


  1. ^ a b Weingarten, Christopher R. (22 March 2019). ""Windowlicker" Turns 20". Stereogum. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  2. ^ De Peyer, Robin (18 August 2014). "Aphex Twin blimp spotted in London sparks speculation over DJ's return". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b Murphy, Ben. "SOLID GOLD: HOW APHEX TWIN'S 'SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS 85-92' REFINED DANCE MUSIC". DJ Mag. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Aphex Twin – Brit Awards" Archived 5 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 11 November 2014
  5. ^ a b c d "Pitchfork Top 200 Tracks of the 90s". 3 September 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  6. ^ "The 50 best Aphex Twin tracks of all time". Fact. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Bush, John (23 February 1999). "Windowlicker – Aphex Twin". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  8. ^ CMJ New Music Report. 58 (613). 12 April 1999. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Staff. "11 Songs That Sample Sex The Right Way". Vice. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Daft Punk Embark on a Voyage of Discovery". MTV. Archived from the original on 27 March 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  11. ^ "Electronic Music Mailing List Archives: idm — Re: Dissecting Windowlicker track #2". Archived from the original on 21 February 2008.
  12. ^ a b Kahney, Leander (10 May 2002). "Hey, Who's That Face in My Song?". Wired. Wired. Retrieved 8 August 2013. Aphex Twin, who has been described as "the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music," appears to have sneaked the digital image of a devilish face into at least one of his songs.
  13. ^ a b "Warp / Records / Releases / Aphex Twin / Windowlicker". Warp. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  14. ^ "APHEX TWIN Groove Interview, 2001". 21 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Interviews". Pitchfork.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Windowlicker artwork created by H.R Giger, 1999". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Windowlicker Credits". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Ducommun St & N Vignes St · Los Angeles, CA 90012". google maps. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  20. ^ "Barnard Way & Ocean Park Blvd · Santa Monica, CA 90405". google maps. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  21. ^ Aphex Twin, Aphex Twin – Windowlicker (Director's Version), retrieved 18 January 2019
  22. ^ NME (1 February 2000). "BRIT AWARDS – THE NOMINEES IN FULL". NME. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  23. ^ Sweney, Mark (4 June 2008). "MTV fined £255k for offensive material". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  24. ^ Cross, Charles R. (2004). "Aphex Twin". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 21. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  25. ^ "1999 – NME". NME. 10 October 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  26. ^ "V/VM – helpaphextwin v1.0". V/Vm Test Records. Archived from the original on 10 November 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  27. ^ a b "V/VM – helpaphextwin v4.0". V/Vm Test Records. Retrieved 18 March 2009.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ Beardyman – Live in the Underbelly: The Full show. 19 January 2010 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ Miss Kittin – Live At Sónar Discogs. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  30. ^ "Girl Talk – All Day Samples List". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  31. ^ Aphex Twin High Fidelity cut scene. 25 May 2006 – via YouTube.
  32. ^ "A. G. Cook – "Windowlicker" (Aphex Twin Cover)". Stereogum. 28 July 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  33. ^ Climax (2018) – IMDb, retrieved 18 March 2019
  34. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  35. ^ "Aphex Twin – Windowlicker". Tracklisten.
  36. ^ "Aphex Twin – Windowlicker" (in French). Les classement single.
  37. ^ "Aphex Twin – Windowlicker" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  38. ^ "Aphex Twin – Windowlicker". Top 40 Singles.
  39. ^ "Aphex Twin – Windowlicker". Singles Top 100.
  40. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  41. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company.
  42. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 August 2022.

External links[edit]