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Baker's Dozen

Semi-Chaotic Elements: Ekoplekz' Favourite Albums
The Quietus , June 4th, 2015 11:11

With his third album on Planet Mu out, Nick Edwards gives us an in-depth trawl through his top 13 LPs, a Baker's Dozen that scans his formative 90s electronica influences and acts as a "reference point" to Reflekzionz

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Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Probably the only album on this list to ever have a book written about it, and with good reason. It's almost a cliché to hark on about SAW II now, but it's impossible to deny the literally gigantic effect it had on my life at the time.

There was a trend in the 90s for ridiculously long double-CD albums, which seems a bit mad these days, but back then seemed like a good idea. Bear in mind, albums had a much longer shelf-life back then. There wasn't the constant flow of traffic you get now from the internet. You would buy an album and then just get lost in it, sometimes for weeks at a time. Other obvious examples of mega-long albums I enjoyed were The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and Lifeforms by Future Sound Of London. They suited the pace of my life back then. But nothing could prepare me for SAW II. Even as someone who was already a committed fan of Aphex's work, this was just jaw-dropping in its scope.

There was a lot of talk, then and now, of its 'largely beatless' nature, and at the time that seemed like an accurate description. Compared to everything around it, it did sound beatless, but listening to it now, you realise there are loads of beats, they're just nothing like anything that was around at that time. We just didn't recognise them as beats, such was the advanced nature of Richard James' compositional skills at that point.

I still like some of the stuff Aphex puts out now, but it is all very clean and perfectly engineered. I love the recording quality of earlier Aphex records. There's a DIY lo-fi sound, which is partly due to the pre-digital home recording conditions and also, I guess, Richard's unpolished engineering skills. This album in particular has lots of distortion and 'incorrect' recording levels which all add to the charm and still remains a massive influence on my own work. I don't think he, or anyone else, will ever better this album. It's the ultimate statement of my generation, and so much of the music that has come since, from the 'isolationist' end of ambient, right through to current trends in minimal and drone, all flowers from this point. Literally awesome.


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