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.