Stories and mysteries surround this gorgeous, ethereal album: that it includes tracks from 1985 (when Aphex Twin, a.k.a. Richard D. James, was all of fourteen), that it was largely made with instruments built by James himself, that its success emboldened James to purchase a Panzer tank. The music matters more than any of that, because with Selected 85-92, Aphex Twin expanded way beyond the ambient music of Brian Eno by fusing lush soundscapes with oceanic beats and bass lines. "Ageispolis" is chill-out music that burbles and uncoils like some very beautiful snake, while the tootling, way-peaceful "We Are the Music Makers" has a tiny joke tucked inside its glittering synth refrains and clicking percussion: It begins with what seems like a sound bite of psychedelic wisdom, but is actually a line of dialogue from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. James was cracking wise about dance music's trippy reputation, even as he proved that techno could be more than druggy dance music. Selected Ambient Works 85-92 isn't just mind-altering -- it's majestic.
(RS 911 – December 12, 2002)