APHEX ^N: We’re 10 days from the first anniversary of the publication of my book in the 33 1/3 series on Aphex Twin’s landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I’m excited that it was one of the five best-selling volumes in the series last year, and I’m also overwhelmed at what a difference a year makes. Aphex Twin was mostly a memory when I researched and wrote the book, and for many months following the book’s release. He hadn’t released a full-length album in well over a decade. Just about everyone I spoke with about him spoke of him in the past tense. And then last fall he — Richard D. James — came, quite suddenly, out of hiding. He announced his reappearance with a blimp over London; released a widely acclaimed album, Syro; and filled a SoundCloud account with dozens of previously unreleased music. Then that account (soundcloud.com/richarddjames) when dark, though two new tracks have recently appeared. The first of those two new tracks announced the arrival of a new post-Syro EP, the excellent downtempo set Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2. And then came soundcloud.com/user48736353001, where he has been posting dozens upon dozens of previously unreleased tracks. There were 110 tracks attributed to user48736353001 as of a few days ago, and then another 20 popped up today. And as if that weren’t enough, a mysterious new account associated with it, soundcloud.com/somadril, has 15 tracks — so far. (I’ve been informed via a conversation on ello.co that folks deep in the Aphex well are under the impression Somadril is a friend of Aphex, not him.) https://soundcloud.com/user48736353001/
GHOST-IN-THE-HOME MACHINES: Geoff Manaugh writes at New Scientist about the ways technology maintains our presence in our absence, for the purposes of home safety: “For example, there are already albums of background noise available to make it sound as if someone is rummaging through the refrigerator or watching TV in the other room. One collection specifically promises ‘hundreds of professionally recorded interior house sounds to give the realistic impression that someone is at home’. It won’t be long before audio effects such as these are integrated directly into a FakeTV-like system, playing deceptive sounds through hidden speakers in an otherwise empty house or apartment.” Once upon a time we might have used simple timers on lamps to do the job, and at more paranoid moments I did hook timers up to radios for the effect that Manaugh describes. The commercialization of such activities makes one wonder what’s ahead. William Gibson tells us the street finds its own uses for things. What uses will the home find? (Thanks, boondesign.com, for the tip.) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26904-new-urbanist-the-ghosts-that-keep-your-house-safe.html/
PLAYLISTS OF YOUR YOUTH: The new web service http://retroj.am/ — I write out the full URL because “retroj.am” doesn’t immediately announce itself as a web address — provides you with playlists tagged to various moments in your life. You enter your birthday — today, February 3, happens to be my half birthday, and my late paternal grandmother’s birthday — and it pumps out what was playing (in the U.S.) when you were born, and when you entered first grade and second grade, and when you graduated from high school, and so on. Well, not “and so on” for very long. Interestingly, it ends when you graduate from college — the presumption, likely correct, is that once you enter the work force what is playing on the radio is less likely to correspond with your actual life. One demerit: retroj.am only goes back to 1950, which leaves plenty of room for my memories, but not for everyone’s — and not for many curious listeners who might wonder what was a hit before your mother was born. http://retroj.am/
This first appeared in the February 3, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.