Aphex Twin @ 33 1/3 (5/5): Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2 (2/2)

The fifth and final of five posts for the 33 1/3 website

The publisher of my Aphex Twin book, 33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury, invited me to write blog posts this week to note the book’s official publication on Thursday, February 13, which is to say yesterday. The fifth and final of these five posts is up today: “Video Vault Part II: Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2.”

This is the opening of the piece, about half the post’s total length:

Richard D. James has more pseudonyms than Jason Bourne and Fernando Pessoa combined. So, it isn’t quite right to say he didn’t release anything after Selected Ambient Works Volume II for a full year. Quite the contrary, there was a steady flow of material, much from the close-proximate moniker AFX. However, the next official Aphex Twin album came almost exactly a year later: an EP of remixes of a track titled “Ventolin.”

The EP announced itself immediately as being as intentionally far from Selected Ambient Works Volume II as one might get. The opening whine of the first track is an intense, painful, irritating sound — deliciously irritating — and it doesn’t let up for the length of the song, or for the length of the release, which is a series of reworkings of the same material. Alongside that whine is a powerful rhythmic crunch.

In the video, the machine whine is initiated by the simple push of a button, an elevator button. It’s pushed by a businesswoman. Her plight — she’s stuck in the elevator for the length of the video — initially alternates with shots of the asthma inhaler from which the track takes its name. It is seen emerging from a box, the steady ascent reminiscent of space-rocket launches, a correlation strengthened by the slow-motion docking of the inhaler and mouthpiece later in the video.

Read the full piece, and see the associated video, at 333sound.com.

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