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.
Doing this daily countdown project in advance of the Selected Ambient Works Volume II book’s release is — the presentation as serial blog posts with YouTube embeds aside — anything but casual.
Pretty much the last thing you want to do after a book is published is to revisit the subject in depth. The last thing you want to do is unearth things you wished you’d covered differently, or material that would have further strengthened your argument.
Yet here I go, listening daily to tracks as I did during the year of the book’s writing — well, slightly differently. During the writing process, I’d put a single track on repeat for the day; for this countdown, I’m listening back to confirm some thoughts, and to reconcile realizations I’ve had subsequent to the intial writing.
During that lengthy book-production period, no track was as central to my listening and thinking as the 11th/12th, depending on your edition: “White Blur I,” as it has come to be known. It played a central role in my initial proposal to the publisher (33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury), and its importance didn’t diminish as the writing unfolded. The track more than any other on the album foresees the future rise of generative systems in electronic music. This is because it is built on that most ancient of automated instruments, the wind chime.
As I noted a few days ago, the three tracks that follow “White Blur 1” on Selected Ambient Works Volume II can be said to tell, in compact form, the complete story of the album: “Blue Calx,” melody; “Parallel Stripes,” ambience; “Shiny Metal Rods,” minimalist beats. In that thinking, “White Blur 1” would fall into the “Shiny Metal Rods” category — or between “Shiny Metal Rods” and “Parallel Stripes” — but because of the irregularity of the rhythmic material, it truly deserves a category of its own.
And recently over at the Disquiet Junto, the weekly open-call music-making series I run, we did a project informed by this track. It’s titled “Aeolian Metrics.”
And here it is reversed:
Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.