My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: saw2for33third

Pitchfork on My Aphex Twin Book

One of "the 33 best 33 1/3 titles" (out of 106)

This sure was a nice way to start the week. Pitchfork yesterday published a list of “the 33 best” books in the 33 1/3 series. About 106 or so books have been published by 33 1/3, including mine on the 1994 Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2. Here’s what the “33 best” article has to say about it:

Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was a puzzle when Aphex Twin released it 21 years ago: an anti-album that eschewed track names and introduced a spare sound that was in the process of either dissolving for forming. It was, in other words, an ideal release for the new forums of this thing called the Internet, whose members not only picked apart the music but helped define the album for subsequent generations. Marc Weidenbaum packs a lot into these 130 pages: a mini-biography of a ground-breaking artist, a capsule history of ambient music, and an example of how digital technology determines how we hear and interpret music.

The full article is at pitchfork.com. It was written by Stephen M. Deusner. (I think it’s supposed to read “dissolving or forming.”)

There are a lot of great subjects ahead in the 33 1/3 series. I’m especially looking forward to Andrew Schartmann on Koji Kondo’s music for the Super Mario Bros video game and to George Grella on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. There’s a full list of the books in the series at 333sound.com.

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Infirmity as Muse

Aphex Twin's breathing apparatus

A photo posted by Marc Weidenbaum (@dsqt) on

As I mentioned on instagram.com/dsqt last week, the first single that Aphex Twin released after his Selected Ambient Works Volume II album was “Ventolin.” A collection renditions of a central track, the claustrophobic intensity of “Ventolin” was, as its title and cover art suggested, a reflection of Aphex Twin’s own asthma. My Instagram photo displayed a pair of inhalers I’d just been prescribed by my doctor, due to an insane allergy season this year that had rendered me essentially mute for a week. “My life,” I whined on Instagram, although not with the intensity of the whine at the “Ventolin”‘s heart, “has imitated art.” Aphex Twin has continued to roll out archival audio to the cloud, and among the tracks yesterday was perhaps his most literal exploration of his health issues, “Asthma1,” which is constructed from modulated audio of his own constrained breathing. It’s not an easy listen, but it is revealing:

Track originally posted at Aphex Twin’s new SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/user18081971. The new account name is derived from his birthday, August 18, 1971.

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Selected Ambient Kremlinology

And one particular stellar new/old Aphex Twin track.

Now at 190 total, the feed of tracks being uploaded by Aphex Twin (aka user48736353001) from his personal archive has expanded in recent days, after a two-month break, to include a wide range of sounds, among them industrial grinding and freeform experimentation. This piece, “6 Gear Smudge,” is the first in awhile to come close to the level of ambient simplicity that is represented by the (currently) 10-track Selected Ambient Works Volume 3 playlist I made from the uploads on the user48736353001 account. With its prominent synth melody, it’s arguably too poppy to make that cut, but it’s still a great nugget.

My favorite in this recent batch, by far, is “3 Slothscrape,” which one commenter (user1789670, the account of which has no tracks associated with it) perceptively likens to the work of Pierre Bastien. It indeed has the warped, melting pacing that Bastien shares with Kid Koala and Gavin Bryars. The “6 Gear Smudge” track is dated as “94 ish” but there is no date associated with “”3 Slothscrape.”

Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, isn’t just posting tracks from his relative seclusion. He’s also joining in the comments section. He explains to one commenter in the “6 Gear Smudge” thread that he created the hip-hop (“btw its all me inc. the scratchin”) heard in the introduction to the Chris Cunningham–directed “Windowlicker” video, and expresses disappointment about a longstanding beef with a fellow musician. At one point his generic account name appears not as “user 48736353001″ but as the French “utilisateur 48736353001,” which suggests he was logged in from a different computer or location.

Tracks originally posted at soundcloud.com/user48736353001.

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Two More from Aphex Twin

aka user48736353001

The remote user48736353001, aka Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, yesterday posted his first SoundCloud track in two months. It was #174 in his account’s feed, and of course the question lingered whether the dam was about to break again.

We have a partial answer. In the past 24 hours, another pair of tracks appeared. “36 Shroommdot [miCro3] [8th dimension transmission]” is an expansive piece, at over 20 minutes perhaps the longest in the user48736353001 account. It’s an apparent improvisation of rangy sounds, tea-kettle whines and morphy noises and shrill waves. It sounds less like a “track” than much of what he’s posted, and more like a free-form run-through of a range of different tools and techniques. In contrast, the brief — well, relatively compact, at 6:24 minutes — “25 rogphlange 1″ places a backbeat behind a select number of such sounds, rendering it more approachable, attractively abrasive. Both tracks are from the 1990s, “rogphlange” listed as “199?” and “Shroommdot” as “1993.”

None of the past 24 hours’ three uploads falls into the ambient category that made 10 user48736353001 tracks fit into the Selected Ambient Works Volume 3 (Beta) playlist I’ve put together.

Check out “36 Shroommdot [miCro3] [8th dimension transmission]” and “25 rogphlange 1″ on their respective SoundCloud pages.

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#174

A new track from Aphex Twin's user48736353001 account

For a few months now I’ve loaded the Aphex Twin page on SoundCloud, aka that of user48736353001, each morning wondering when 173 — long the standing track count — would jump to 174.

And it did, less than 10 minutes ago, with the track “24 Triple D.” If the above embed doesn’t work, click through to the track’s dedicated URL.

It’s a piece of hard rapid synthesis, a sonar beep buried deep in the grinding beat, and the overtones taking on a semblance of human speech. By Aphex Twin standards, it opens in a nearly industrial mode, but in time more familiar slow-moving, comforting waves infuse themselves into the proceedings, though never enough to fully subsume the foreboding, driving beat. The sole accompanying information is a date (1993), and a hashtag for one of Richard D. James’ many monikers: #afx.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/user48736353001.

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