Aphex Twin is perhaps the best known of the many monikers used by Richard D. James, one of the more creative minds in '90s electronica. James, who has recorded as AFX, Polygon Window, Caustic Window, and several others, is equally capable of both Eno-esque ambient pieces and headache-inducing techno. He will juxtapose melodies played by computer-generated string instruments with frantic, machinized beat patterns that make sense only to him. More an avant-garde composer than a creator of dance-floor hits, he has spent most of his extremely prolific career ignoring commercial trends.

James began his unique approach to music making early on. As a child, he conducted sound experiments on the strings and hammers of his family piano; by age 14, he had recorded his first compositions. During the late ’80s, he DJ’d at raves in Cornwall before moving to London, where he attended college for one year before dropping out to focus on his music. His first release came in 1991 with the Analogue Bubblebath EP, recorded with Tom Middleton (known as Schizophrenia). His second EP, Analog Bubblebath, vol. 2 - a solo James effort under the name AFX - followed the same year; it contained the single “Digeridoo” (#55, U.K.), which foreshadowed the advent of drum-and-bass. After putting out a series of singles as Caustic Window on his own RePhLeX imprint, James released his first full-length album as Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works 85–92, in 1992. Hailing the album as an ambient masterpiece comparable to work by the Orb and Brian Eno, critics similarly applauded Selected Ambient Works, vol. 2, which followed two years later and went to #11 in the U.K.

His next Aphex Twin full-length,...I Care Because You Do, saw James seeking a middle ground between his ambient and hardcore techno compositions. The result placed him more in line with minimalist composers like Philip Glass, who attempted to re-create one of the album’s songs with a live orchestra on his Donkey Rhubarb EP. The Richard D. James Album continued its namesake’s marriage of drifting melodies and frenzied beats, as did the Come to Daddy EP (#36, U.K.) and 1999’s “Windowlicker” (#16, U.K.) single. James spent 2000 writing the score to the independent short film Flex.

from The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001)




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