One of Aphex Twin's albums. Kind of his way of looking at drum & bass, although many have reflected the term drill & bass may be more appropriate. Probably the most eccentrically Aphex album he ever made. Definitely the most inconsistent album ever made, by anyone. You will love some of the tracks on this album, and you will hate some of the others. The interesting thing is that which tracks are loved and which are hated varies wildly from person to person.

I personally see this album as almost a parody on drum & bass music; listening to it it's hard not to hear some kind of twisted mangled corpse of what was once drum&bass, hard not to hear the same dense, complex rhythm patterns, although they have been maniacally exaggerated; imbued with the spirit of the aphex and inexplicably made more complex, more dense, more esoteric until all coherence dries up and blows away and nothing is left but elegant complexity and blissful chaos. And of course here too is that same single-minded dark spirit that is drum & bass, and those same crazy remixes in which it's impossible to tell what relationship could possibly exist between the remix and the original. And two of the songs are named after commands in BASIC.

Not his best album by any means, but definitely contains some of the best bits of any of his albums; tracks 1, 3, and 8, notably, are unlike anything i've ever heard before or since, and probably his best material anywhere.

The name of the album is probably a toss-off joke related to the fact that RDJ has upward of 12 pseudonyms besides "Aphex Twin".

The Richard D. James Album, by Aphex Twin (aka Richard D. James). (1996)

Bear witness to some of the most original and innovative electronic music of the 90s. On his truly self-titled album, RDJ has revealed the true colour of his personality with this tiny but jam-packed release. (suitable for those with a short attention span)

Almost entirely written on a PowerPC, The RDJ Album is a non-stop tribute to all things fun. Nothing is taken seriously here - "Richard James'" own tombstone is depicted inside (or outside, depending on your release) the liner notes. (but it's not Aphex Twin's grave - it is that of his brother who died 3 years before he was born - the "D." middle-initial makes all the difference)

The style of this album is completely unlike any established genre of electronic music. It is highly experimental, with some influences from electro, techno, breakbeat, and ambient. (although these are extremely loose terms in themselves) There are glimpses of recognisable paradigms, but even then only fleetingly. The timbre of his drum samples are simply fantastic - ranging from your conventional snare hit, to the sound of someone hitting a milk bottle with a mallet, to all sorts of completely unrecognisable warbling samples.

The album kicks off with '4', a rhythmic and harmonic delight. Featuring massive snare rushes and eastern-sounding pentatonic scales (once described as a battle between the drums (an outraged proleteriat) and the synths (representing a calm but firm and overruling beaurocrasy)), its exoticity sets the pace for the whole album.

No facet of the RDJ persona is left unexplored. The intensely melancholic Yellow Calx fuses beyond-sublime synth harmonies with frustrated, chopped and syncopated rhythms to form something like being stuck indoors on a rainy day. Beetles has James singing sweetly, but ever-so-slightly off key, about the insects that share his house. ("Beetles, under my carpet, under my feet. They come out at night.") Cornish Acid reflects the restlessness that comes from spending too many nights and early mornings awake in front of a PC, with it's disjointed structure of a three bar beat, a four bar bleep-driven melody, and ominously constructed high pitched synth chords.

One of the strongest most pertinent themes of this album is that of James' sense of humour. Tracks such as 'Milkman' where we hear James' untreated voice pining for his morning sustinance: "I wish the milk man would deliver my milk, in the morning. I wish the milk man would deliver my milk, when I'm yawning. I would like some milk from the milk man's wife's tits." ... Right.

Errata:

  • The strings throughout the album are real string instruments sampled by RDJ himself.
  • In '4', the voice saying "Richard" is RDJ's father, and the "yeah!" is RDJ.
  • Girl/Boy Song is called such because James believes that there are boy songs and girl songs, and this one happens to be both. (I guess that the 'boy' element is identified with the rhythms, being more harsh (a trait linked to masculinity) than the string-driven melodies which are softer, more feminine if you will, and thus 'girl' qualities.)
  • The phrase "Looking at all the swans, hearing the birds singing, watching the water flow past in the canal." at the beginning of "Girl/Boy Song (£18 snare rush mix)" is sampled from the film Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Track listing:
  1. 4 3:34
  2. Cornish Acid 2:15
  3. PEEK 824545201 3:01
  4. Fingerbib 3:46
  5. Carn Marth 2:29
  6. To Cure A Weakling Child 3:58
  7. Goon Gumpas 1:57
  8. Yellow Calx 3:00
  9. Girl/Boy Song 4:47
  10. Logon Rock Witch 3:31
  11. Milk Man 3:44
  12. Inkey$ 1:21
  13. Girl/Boy Song (£18 snare rush mix) 1:45
  14. Beetles 1:26
  15. Girl/Boy Song (redruth mix) 1:17
Note: This listing is of the US/Japanese release which incorporated both the Girl/Boy EP and RDJ Album. (this is the one that may be purchased in Australia) On other releases some tracks may be omitted or in a different order.

There's a little section of triplets in the 'drum solo' of Milkman that blows me away every time I hear it. If you're after something different, definately give this album a listen.

Artist Aphex Twin
Label Warp Records
Year 1996
Rating ★★★★☆
Summary Harsh, complex beats and quirky samples never sounded so good.

Richard D. James Album not only sounds somewhat harsh and abrasive but also sounds like it contains a lot of cheap samples and a fair few homebrew ones, from orchestral sounds that won't fool anyone to samples of the ZX Spectrum game Jetpac -- including the noise of it loading. Surprisingly, the result is actually rather good. Maybe Aphex Twin wanted to prove that high quality sounds aren't as important as original ideas. Then again, maybe he just wanted to see what he could get away with.

Like much of his other work, the eponymous Richard D. James Album is more like a sketchbook of ideas than a finished album. If you want to listen to something more accessible then you'd be better off with Ochre's well polished debut A Midsummer Nice Dream, but if you're persistent, this quaint little album may just grow on you.

As far as the album's sound goes, it mainly consists of intricately programmed drum samples that are far too fast and complex to actually be played by a real drummer. Once you manage to stop focusing on this insane percussion, however, it actually makes a weirdly appropriate backdrop for the melodies and bizarre sounds that make the album so good. From the bittersweet strings of 4 to the shimmering pad in Peek 824545201, this album offers plenty of beautiful music to anyone persistent enough to discover it.

This album is actually surprisingly coherent for Richard D. James, which makes a pleasant change. It even rises to a suitably manic climax with Girl/Boy Song, which sounds partly orchestral and partly like a drummer having an epileptic fit.

While not easily accessible, Richard D. James Album is original and interesting. It's also pretty humorous in places, which is impressive for instrumental music. It won't be to everybody's taste, though, so it's worth listening to it before you decide whether to buy it or not.

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