Richard D. James / Aphex Twin recently (Tuesday) released a new two-disc set humorously entitled “26 Mixes For Cash”. Containing 26 remixes (go figure) of a range of artists – familiar (Nine Inch Nails, Jesus Jones, Meat Beat Manifesto), unfamiliar (Mescalinum United, Nobukazu Takemura), and incestual (two tracks are remixes of his own material) – this is alleged to be the most accessible Aphex’s music will ever be.
While you could go read reviews from JunkMedia or dotmusic, you’re going to be subjected to mine. Songs will be rated on a 1 to 100 scale (matching the ratings I give the tracks in iTunes – and yes, I bought this), potentially without rhyme or reason. Songs rated 60 or higher are good enough to make it to my primary play list, songs over 80 make it into my more selective one.
If for nothing else, you want to read this as I fumble with how to describe Aphex tracks.
Seefeel / Time To Find Me (AFX Fast Mix)
A nicely little rhythm line layered in between what sounds like a distorted flute floating around short bursts of a female vocal. Not sure how apt “Fast Mix” is here, feels like around 100 BPM. Still, very easy to listen to, and I would add this to a downtempo mix if I was making one. 76/100.
Gavin Bryars / Raising The Titanic (Big Drum Mix)
There are strings floating around here, a fairly regular drum line, and more spacious female vocals (more choir like this time). Right at the 4:00 mark, we drop the pleasantries and get down to business, with the drums developing into something more complex and the other two parts fading away (although there are voices of something in the background). Then, after ninety seconds, things begin wafting back in – what is this, oboe? Drums drop out at 6:12 and stay gone as we’re left in a sound nebula that I have no complaints about. 74/100.
Gentle People / Journey (Aphex Twin Care Mix)
Ooh, I like this opening. Really soft and delicate, but still moving enough to get you interested. The drum line is just a gentle scraping sound , with a little chime intertwined. We get a third track with female vocal samples, but they’ve been different in tone enough for me not to get annoyed. I like, I just don’t know how accessible this is. 67/100.
Kinesthesia / Triachus (Mix By Aphex Twin)
We start getting into a little rougher material, as it’s machine-like rhythms to get us started. Very…I don’t know, sinewy? Is that a word? It’s snake-like, at least. And I like it enough to give it a 60/100.
Philip Glass / Heroes (Aphex Twin Remix)
Oh wow. You take Bowie’s vocals from Heroes, fade it in and out over driving strings from the American Composers Orchestra, and you just…I don’t know if there’s any other term for what’s going on here than than “fuck with it”. There’s no percussion here, it’s literally just strings and Bowie (and the occasional other vocal sample that creeps into one channel). Katie describes it as sounding like “somebody’s bad dream”, and I think that’s apt – but this is a bad dream I want to have again and again. 85/100.
Buck Tick / In The Glitter Part 2 (Aphex Twin Remix)
Back to the “harder” stuff. Largely drum to start, some synth’d wind instrument, some chime-type instruments…it’s a nice little aural blanket, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. 45/100.
Jesus Jones / Zeros And Ones (Aphex Twin Reconstruction)
Good god, do you want to talk about minimalistic music? Floaty synth notes over a light but driving rhythm for nearly 6 minutes. Good, sonically enjoyable, but not something I want popping up on a playlist. 55/100.
Nav Katze / Ziggy (Aphex Twin Mix)
This really isn’t dissimilar from some of the songs on TRDJA. It features that one little warbly instrument that we hear a lot in Aphex songs. Again, no progression to anything with a melody and rhythm that merely plod means I’m not that interested. 37/100.
Saint Etienne / Your Head My Voice (Voix Revirement)
The rhythm and bass remind me of some Brown Album-era Orbital. The vocals don’t hurt this either. I like this, yet…I kept expecting something to happen, and it just as it seems like it’s building towards something, it fades out. What the hell? 50/100.
Nav Katze / Change (Aphex Twin Mix)
Another downtempo-feel track. There’s something here that I guess would be considered the closest to “scratching” that Aphex would ever do. Oddly hypnotic, there’s some low piano and some high register instruments coming and going on their own accord. A lot more interesting than the other Nav Katze remix, and worth multiple listens. 76/100.
The Beatniks / Une Femme N’est Pas Un Homme (Aphex Twin Mix)
This feels more accessible than the other tracks; there’s a rolling upward melody, two layers of rhythm…but there’s just something holding me back from wanting to listen to this again. 59/100
Nine Inch Nails / The Beauty Of Being Numb Section B (Created By Aphex Twin)
Now this is familiar territory for me. As found on Further Down The Spiral, this is that sort of light instrumental industrial that most people go nuts over. Ironically, the review I read before I bought the album said that RDJ hadn’t actually listened to the track this was a remix of, and he had no interest in doing so. Still, this remains a solid track – solid enough for a 62/100.
Nobukazu Takemura / Let My Fish Loose (Aphex Twin Mix)
And now we go into the truly weird. With a oddly rhythmed string bass and some flute, this sounds more like DJ Shadow than Aphex to start. And while we go in and out of various instruments of types I can’t even begin to name, we gets a vocal line that alternately meshes and dischords with the music going on behind it. All in all, it works. 60/100.
Die Fantastischen Vier / Krieger (Aphex Twin Baldhu Mix)
I’m going to divide this into two parts – the main portion and the end. The main portion sounds a little like German rap with somenice dark drumming underneath it and a healthy dose of distortion. The end – the last minute, really – is what I’d call an “Aphex fill”, where RDJ just absolutely fucks around and hits every button he has on his keyboard. You remember those little electronic noise makers we all had as kids, with buttons like “Machine Gun”, “Laser”, and “Grenade”? Remember how you’d hit all the buttons at once? Imagine doing that with Aphex instruments, and you get the last minute. I could live without that part. An even 50/100.
Phillip Boa & The Voodoo Club / Deep In Velvet (Aphex Twin Turnips Mix)
More absolutely crazy drumming under strings and female vocals. It’s a nice contrast here, where you have the very calm melody versus the very chaotic rhythm. I can deal with this. 62/100.
Curve / Falling Free (Aphex Twin Mix)
Take the last track, reduce the chaos, and here we are. Very regular digital-ish rhythm, repeated vocal pattern…it’s a good track, but I just can’t see what sort of a mood I’d need to be in to want to go out of my way to listen to this. 53/100.
Mescalinum United / We Have Arrived (Aphex Twin QQT Mix)
This is probably the most industrial sounding instrumental tack I’ve heard from anyone outside of Skinny Puppy. Channels images of machinery. It has some really distorted guitar providing a “melody”, and again, I’m lost about where I’d listen to this. 44/100.
Nine Inch Nails / At The Heart Of It All (Created By Aphex Twin)
The far better of the two NIN “remixes”, this track builds and settles gracefully, balances between the melodic and the dissonant with some horn-ish instruments that I’ve always loved (for the record, I picked up FDTS, which this was off of, in 1996)…I have absolutely no problem with this; in fact, I had forgotten how good this track was. 85/100.
Remix By AFX
No artist given here, and it’s certainly impossible to discern one from the liner. This is really synth-y and not at all drum-n-bass-y. I would swear I’ve heard the moldy somewhere, but I just don’t know where. It’s interesting enough to warrant multiple listens, so 64/100.
Aphex Twin / Windowlicker (Acid Edit)
I have to admit, I haven’t heard the original of Windowlicker. Sue me. Hmmm, cowbell? Again, we’re staying away from the traditional Aphex and moving into strange acid-tweaked territory. Unfortunately I’m not much for the hard acid music. 47/100.
Baby Ford / Normal (Helston Flora Remix By AFX)
Acid house! It’s fucking acid house! Some nice echo around the halfway point, some weird spoken samples after the middle…good, different, but just missing enough of a hook (since it’s largely rhythm) to keep me listening. 57/100.
Aphex Twin / SAW2 CD1 TRK2 (Original Mix)
Since it’s a little hard to decipher the track name, it’s referring to the second track off Selected Ambient Works 2 – “Radiator”, for those playing along at home. Selected Ambient Works I hold up in very high regard – and I’m devistated to say this is nothing more than that track with a throwaway rhythm underneath it. It gives it more structure, but that defeats the purpose of an ambient track. 29/100.
Meat Beat Manifesto / Mindstream (The Aphex Twin Remix)
Okay, so it sounds as though someone is shooting me in the head with lasers. Guess that’s not too unreasonable for a MBM track. This still retains what flavor I’m used to from MBM, while merging in the fast rhythm from Aphex. An almost Taq-like solid track. 65/100.
DMX Krew / You Can’t Hide Your Love (Hidden Love Mix)
No, this has nothing to do with *that* DMX. This sounds NOTHING like an Aphex track. Well, no, it sounds a little like it in parts. There’s actual lyrics here though. This is as close to a dance remix as you’re going to get out of Richard D James, folks. Still very minimal, but with a definite groove. Worth a 60/100.
Wagon Christ / Spotlight (Aphex Twin Mix)
Hey, look, he’s playing Atari 2600! No, wait, it’s drum’n bass! Very traditional Aphex with a bit more of an edge than I’ve heard normally. “Sonic assault” seems apt here. And I don’t mean that in a particularly positive way. Actually, around halfway through the track, it’s downright grating on the ears. 36/100.
Mike Flowers Pops / Debase (Soft Palate)
I will give him this much, the album is VERY well balanced between the hard and the accessible. Of course, that doesn’t mean to expect any consistency; this is probably as close as you’ll get to acid jazz from Aphex. I hear walking bass, a sort of hot jazz rhythm, some horns, some vocals…a nice unexpected blend, bringing us to a close with 66/100.
Average Rating: 58.6
Closing thoughts: Well, it’s a solidly Aphex album, even if it’s allegedly based on other people’s music. Those people not into IDM or Aphex Twin in his usual form are probably not going to have any luck with this if they’re looking for a more accessible form. On the other hand, anyone with a passing interest in experimental, minimalistic, electric, or (as it’s called) intelligent dance music should pick this up.