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Aphex Twin SAW2 Countdown: Track 21 (“Lichen”)

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

SAWII20

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. 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.

“Lichen” has one of the most beautiful proper melodies on the record. It is characteristic of Aphex Twin at his sweetest — as in the oft-licensed “Avril 14” and this record’s “Blue Calx.” In my book, the person who signed Aphex Twin to Sire Records in the United States jokes about how she’d warn British musicians off signing with Sire in the U.K., as they’d just end up on a label with Enya. It is not to Aphex Twin’s discredit that this track might sound alright in a playlist alongside Enya. The lilting melody bears some similarity to a theme from James Horner’s music for James Cameron’s Titanic, which came out three years later, in 1997.

Speaking of 1997, here’s a version reportedly recorded live at the Glastonbury festival in 1997:

This is a remix by Wisp, who later signed to a small label co-run by Aphex, called Rephlex. There’s a bit more about him in the book:

Here’s a version slowed down significantly — the track is 17 minutes long, compared to its original length of around four minutes. It’s remarkable how the melody is still apparent:

And 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.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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