The Richard D. James Album
, by Aphex Twin
(aka Richard D. James
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.
- 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.
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.
- 4 3:34
- Cornish Acid 2:15
- PEEK 824545201 3:01
- Fingerbib 3:46
- Carn Marth 2:29
- To Cure A Weakling Child 3:58
- Goon Gumpas 1:57
- Yellow Calx 3:00
- Girl/Boy Song 4:47
- Logon Rock Witch 3:31
- Milk Man 3:44
- Inkey$ 1:21
- Girl/Boy Song (£18 snare rush mix) 1:45
- Beetles 1:26
- Girl/Boy Song (redruth mix) 1:17
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.