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.
Aphex Twin’s music on this album can be so rudimentary that, in some manner, it comes across like the base notes of the machines, the sound of them newly turned on and running through their self-maintenance functions. It is the sound of the room tone — were the pieces of equipment themselves rooms, rather than lines of code and collections of circuitry. So, this isn’t so much machines singing their own song, as it is machines making a tour of their own essential sounds, a song of themselves.
There is no doubt that track eight, “Blur,” has a beat, despite the album’s reputation for the absence thereof. The beat sounds like something off an early Peter Gabriel album, an association not undermined by the cinematic synth washes and subtle keyboard motif. The beat is the thing here, though. It’s little more than an augmented click track, but it’s played loud, each imperfect facet exaggerated until it gains texture, like that of an old metronome heard up close. It brings an emotional weight in the form of antiquated technology, in the rich detail of its low-key clank.
And here it is reversed:
Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.