Come on You Cunts, Let's Have Some Aphex Acid

Bewildering four-to-the-floor gurners has been Aphex Twin's stock in trade

Feature by Jasper Hamill | 16 Apr 2006
Bewildering four-to-the-floor gurners has been Aphex Twin's stock in trade. Confused pill munchers have witnessed him DJing with a food processor, with which he subsequently bludgeoned a young fan by accident, taking sandpaper to the needles and playing alongside a squad of Tellytubbies wearing masks of his face. Living in an old bank vault and occasionally popping to the shops in his very own tank, Aphex's bizarre behaviour evinces an unwillingness to engage with the traditional structures of dance music and the wider industry. Reticent, enigmatic and unwilling to play along with the media merry-go-round, his persona has become all the more fascinating even as his music has shot into the farthest reaches of intelligibility.

For years, Aphex has achieved an almost symbiotic relationship with his machines. Coaxing organic sounds from artificial instruments, his music gurgles, chirrups and twinkles in a manner that is as yet unmatched by any of his peers. This preternatural technical ability is complimented by a composer's eye for melody, counterpoint and controlled dissonance, as he weaves classical refrains alongside burbling synths and drums more like a crazed volley of cannon that the usual looped beats of electronic music. Uncomfortably fitting into the canon of avant-machine music- that started with Silver Apples, went through Kraftwerk and onto Add-N-to-X or Alva Noto- he could barely be said to fit within any coherent view of popular dance music history.

He considers himself a composer, in the tradition of John Cage and his antecedents, and his oeuvre is much better placed into the legacy of the year zero modernists who entirely reworked the strategies of art, music, architecture and literature. High seriousness though, in true Aphex style, is mixed with humour, the odd twisted acid-house pop manoeuvre like his fantastic Analord series, and a selection of some of the most witty, dystopic, demon-beneath the bed pop videos ever to be shown.

Chris Cunningham's videos have had hip-hop booty bouncers slowly transmogrifying into analogues of Aphex, hordes of petrifying kids similarly masked and grannies accosted by nightmarish demons. The videos, directly feeding off the twisted muse of Richard James, were inspired by a musical body of work has included the 'Richard D James Album,' a collection of symphonic ambition that that mashed intestinal synths with classical refrains and invented the first drill'n'bass beats; the 'Come to Daddy' EP which touches on themes of masturbation (come on you funny little man), paedophilia and the clammy bedtime fears of childhood and his latest album, a collection of the best of the Analord series, which is an analogue segue through wiggy acid house and drum and bass. It fantastically references his past, but again avoids pastiche, mere rehashing of his old work or, if the truth be told, sounding like anyone else but him.

For the first time in ages, or at least since Windowlicker, the tunes can actually be danced to without giving you a hernia. April's Triptych gig is undoubtedly the highlight of the festival, if not the coming year - miss at your peril.
You can see the great man at Triptych, on Sunday, at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. His new album Chosen Lords is out now - reviewed this issue. See Listings for details of the Triptych gig.