Aphex Twin SAW2 Countdown: Track 23 (“Tassels”)

A track per day up through the February 13 release of my 33 1/3 book


cover-from-Bloomsbury-siteI 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.

This piece is about as far from the concept of a “song” as the album gets. “Tassels” is a noise whorl, a burred whorl, a flangy spray, a sequence of undulating static. It is a thick mass of white noise that gets the appellation of “song” — gets categorized as “song” — for the simple reason that it is one track among two dozen or so on a record of things that are occasionally taken as songs, that broader understanding itself more a matter of context and format than of form. “Tassels” is a song by association. Beyond that association, it is anything but a song.

There are, in essence, two portions to the material that make up “Tassels”: There is the noise and there is the tone. The noise is like that of a passing jet plane, its fuselage drone a slow-motion experiment in doppler fantasia. The tone is a sinewy curve of synthesized anxiety; if it suggests an airborne vehicle, it would be more spacecraft than plane, and considerably less likely of Earth origin. The track is the less the score than the sound design to a sequence of an unscreened Alien sequel. There’s a long hallway, and a lot of dead crew mates, and things are almost certainly going to get worse. Perhaps this is why “Tassels” appears toward the end of the album. It’s a premonition of exiting the chill-out room.

Here it is, reversed:

More on my Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com.

Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.

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