Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works: Volume II is about texture. For writers, chained to desks, the album is a stirring, aurally tactile means of bringing imagination to life.
Before Richard D James, aka, Aphex Twin released Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 in 1994, atmospheric electronica was, for the most part, built on a blissful premise. It was engineered as easy listening, come down music. This album broke that trend.
James did not seek to simply ease his listener. Ambient would not be reduced to simple come down music anymore. What James, a veteran of the early acid and house electronic underground, created on his sophomore release was a record, stimulating by way of isolation.
This is a chill before calamity. It’s what the cold underbelly of dawn feels like.
James deftly organizes this collection out of a series of organic tones. Songs like “Mould” and “Grass” and “Hexigon” imbue a tactile feeling that aren’t just mimics of a real world. There is also an underlying air of mystery, “Blur” and “Tree” and “Domino” are a few of the many that prowl along, keeping the reveal oblique while provoking strong emotions. On “White Blur 2” (at 11:27 the longest track on Selected Ambience Volume 2) Aphex Twin stirs a fathomless haunting, looped synth keys with a subtle overlay of maniacal laughter that feel like a horror sound track.
James did not simply set out to craft a musical riddle with Ambient Works Volume 2. The mercurial Brit defined what one feels like when they are lost amidst the unraveling. For my money, his track “Lichen” is among the most splendidly gorgeous pieces of music ever recorded, a walk out at foggy dawn, haunted by the drowsy thoughts of what might be. This is Aphex Twin at their most evocative; further, this is ambience arriving at an early apex.
There are a few songs that I would call distracting, ones I’ll skip while writing are “White Blur” with bells too disrupting, and “Shiny Metal Rods” on the second disc which veers away from organics, into more mechanized, claustrophobic beats. Otherwise, Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 stands as a pillar of creative, imaginative immersion and a riveting tool for writers.
For anyone who likes You Tube for their music, here is a link to Aphex Twin’s Selected Works.
Here is a link to Aphex Twin’s free listening on Bandcamp.
This is a link to Aphex Twin’s site, containing many free downloads.
Have you given this record a chance? Do you have a favorite album to listen to while writing? Leave me a comment and I’ll review it.