I am going to do this track-by-track countdown to the release, on February 13, 2014, the day prior to Valentine’s Day, of my book in the estimable 33 1/3 series. It is a love letter to Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which will mark its 20th anniversary this year, less than a month after my book’s publication. More on my Aphex Twin book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com. The plan is to do this countdown in the reverse order, from last track to first. For reference, an early draft of the introduction is online, as is the book’s seven-chapter table of contents. The book’s publisher posted an interview with me when I was midway through the writing process.
There is some irony to doing this countdown since the book is already shipping to folks who pre-ordered it via an online retailer such as Amazon, but the official date stands, and that’s the target — the end date — of this countdown, February 13. And for what it’s worth, while the physical copies are mailing now from retailers, the Kindle version won’t turn on until February 13. Still, the digital version costs less.
As I’ve noted on Twitter, this track-a-day approach is exactly the opposite of the book’s approach, which is a collection of interrelated, reporting-based essays.
The track opens with this singular tone. What it signals is unclear, but that of course can be said for the majority if not entirety of the album. The note could be a sonar beep, or it could be some device’s routine ping, but on repeated listen it seems more like the automated announcement that the elevator has arrived at the desired level and the door has opened to reveal what’s on display. 10th floor: Counterpoint, Sedation, Reverb.
Quickly it becomes Steve Reich’s idea of club music. It’s a bouncy track, these various balls of tone seeming to hit the foundational surface of the composition and then to relay for a few beats. The end of the piece is neither fade nor composition, but the elements running their course. The volume does diminish, but it doesn’t have that artificial feeling of someone slowly turning a knob to quiet something that might otherwise go on forever. The mallets lay down their final figures — and then the echo runs out.
And here it is reversed:
Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.