Richard Houghten plays guitar and has a way with covers of electronic tracks. His mid-2017 album, All Guitars 2, included two Aphex Twin pieces (“Vordhosbn,” off Drukqs, and “On,” the single whose release was Aphex Twin’s first on the Warp label) rendered with a mix of often heavily processed guitar and seemingly automated rhythm tracks, as well as pieces by Orbital, Bonobo, David Lynch, DJ Krush, and others, plus some originals.
That was preceded by the 2014 All Guitars, which had covers of Squarepusher, Flying Lotus, Grimes, Burial, and Nosaj Thing, as well as another pair of Aphex Twin pieces: “Jynweythek Ylow,” also from Drukqs, and “Girl/Boy,” off the 1996 EP of the same name and the Richard D. James Album, which followed that same year. (The latter is the one album I got to interview Aphex Twin for.) The “Girl/Boy” rendition popped up today on Houghten’s YouTube channel:
Listening to that on repeat brought me to the full album, and then to the more recent set, which includes an interesting point of comparison. Much of Houghten’s cover work involves taking electronic sounds — melodies, beats, and textures — and rendering them with guitar. However, in the case of the track by Colleen (aka Cécile Schott), “Geometría del Universo,” off her 2013 album, The Weighing of the Heart, Houghten is actually playing on guitar a piece of music that originated on another string instrument.
In Houghten’s version, the intense rhythms of the original remain, but they’ve seen the more visceral aspects softened. Houghten isn’t a replicator, much as his transcriptions bear the imprint of dedication and affection to the source material. He brings his own sensibility to his covers, and in the case of Colleen that involves invoking an aesthetic that the original was somewhat in opposition to. Where Colleen’s had the beating heart of a flamenco outburst, the Houghten is more quietly minimalist — the same patterns, rendered with a silken palette.
For comparison’s sake, here is Colleen’s original version of “Geometría del Universo”: