Various Artists(Compiled by David Toop)

Ocean of Sound (Virgin UK 1996)

links are down, but will be reposted tomorrow.

Although it sometimes spends too much time sniffing its own arse, The Wire, a British magazine, has helped turn me on to new horizons during the thirteen years I have read its pontifications. Yes, I could do without its testimonials to grime and its ill-fated interludes with post-rock, but no current magazine delves into the nitty gritty of oddball musics like they do. Although he doesn’t seem to write for them anymore, David Toop’s meanderings on music warped my mind in new directions. To be honest, I read them now and find less to love, but his articles and book Ocean of Sound provided the context for why I found whirrs, buzzes and drones to be such a wonderland. In 1996, Toop wrote a book entitled Ocean of Sound which attempted to trace the history of ambient music as well as the motivations behind those who devoted themselves to its creation. He touched on Satie, Terry Riley, Eno and Aphex Twin and how supposed background music became an artform. I still kind of dig this book, but years have hardened me and I no longer have the same bright-eyed and bushy-tailed look as I read the words. However, this book really gave my musical loves a sense of place. It connected dots and made sense of things that my young mind didn’t grasp until then.

A double cd was released in conjunction with book and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a better compendium of music to correlate with the book’s explorations of the ability of music to create an atmosphere. Now the book and compilation do not limit themselves to mellow bubbles and chirps since Peter Brotzmann and Ornette Coleman play a role as well as My Bloody Valentine and Jon Hassell. I love the diversity of this collection because its field recordings of howler monkeys and rain songs just melt into the more austere terrain of Harold Budd. At heart, it is just an excellent mix tape devoted to the power of sound by a man who put all of his love into each selection.

Aphex Twin

Donkey Rhubarb ep (Warp/Sire 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0bidmzbjzmv

Man, I still am amenable to spending a couple hours listening to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Every buzz and drone sings to my weary soul. Love it just as much as the day I picked it up from a godforsaken Western PA chain store on the day of its release. Now, I like most of his ouvre, but everything he released after this ep makes me wish he expanded on the themes and ideas located here. Donkey Rhubarbs is the most concise summary of all that was good about Richard D. James before he began giggling in his tank and posing for the Wire with pantyhose over his noggin.

Each of the four tracks represent four sides of Aphex Twin. The last two tracks are perfect summations of his rapidfire take on idm, Detroit techno and acid while the openers explore terrain that was sadly abandoned.

“Pancake Lizard” starts the ep in dramatic fashion. It actually redeems trip-hop as a genre instead of the 99-pound weakling it truly was. Outside of Portishead and possiblly Tricky’s debut, name me one worthwhile trip-hop album. Slowed down hip-hop beats, limp drones and diva rejects abounded in this misguided genre. However, Aphex Twin treats the genre like a soundtrack as he melds the slow-motion drama of Selected Ambient Works and grafts it to a simple, but effective beat that ultimately wields all of the tension trip-hop lacked.

However, “Icct Hedral” is the one that really hurts. Why couldn’t he have explored the world of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Lalo Schifrin as he does here. This collaboration with Glass is breathtaking and frustrating because he never really delved into classical music in such a way ever again. From the forboding chorus and thick bass to the delicate idm tinkling replicated by a string section, this track shows a side of Richard D. James that could’ve been groundbreaking. Before anyone complains, he did use strings and incorporate elements of classical music into his music, but this track is a grandiose moment that points to what should have been. Instead, his attention span got the better of him and jokey drill and bass was the next step.