Happy “Avril 14th”

One of the dependably best days of the year

Today is, hands down, one of the dependably best days of the year for electronic music fans. It’s up there with March 3 and August 8 when, respectively, the Roland TB-303 Bass Line and Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer get their annual shout-outs in the form of fan-friendly social media videos and producer-ready sample packs. 

The irony for music fans in the United States is that the hassle of filing one’s taxes each year aligns with a gift that keeps on giving: Aphex Twin’s song “Avril 14th.” The solo instrumental first appeared on the Aphex Twin album Drukqs, released back in 2001. Roughly on its 20th anniversary, back in 2021, Eric Ducker in the New York Times (gift link, no paywall) surveyed the track that had become a quiet phenomenon, noting recordings by Kelly Moran, Alarm Will Sound, and Martin Jacoby, among others, as well as sampling by Kanye West, and the track’s deployment by music supervisors for film. 

Each year, musicians of all stripes take stabs at “Avril 14th,” which sounds a bit like if Erik Satie were in an especially sweet mood. While it’s popular with pianists and acoustic guitarists, the instrumentation and arrangements of these covers vary widely. There are countless renditions out there, including Tamara Young on harp, Will Van Horn on pedal steel, and the vibraphone duo of Robby Bowen and Adam Holmes.

In recent weeks, as the eponymous date approached, more versions arrived, including one like an 8-bit video game; an expansive arrangement by Chamomile Crow for celeste, guitar, upright bass, and various synthesizers; Holger Lauritsen on concertina; and Remy van Kesteren on harp.

This activity isn’t unique to YouTube. There’s a Gameboy tracker cover on Instagram and a mbira/kalimba one on TikTok. One of my favorite variations was posted years ago on SoundCloud by Aphex Twin himself: “notes played backwards, not the audio.”

Not surprisingly, music equipment companies have sorted out a means to piggyback on this annual event. Ben Wilson, the prolific YouTube synthesizer personality who goes by the name DivKid, today released an overdubbed rendition of “Avril 14th” on the newly announced Cascadia synthesizer, made by the company Intellijel, which sponsored the video. (I own several pieces of Intellijel equipment, including a case. Good stuff.) That track is just two minutes long. If you have 12 more minutes, you can watch a detailed breakdown by DivKid of the synthesizer patch. 

And if that isn’t enough “Avril 14th” for you, you can read my 2021 interview with the classical guitarist Simon Farintosh about his efforts to commit a faithful transcription. As Farintosh noted, the original Drukqs version wasn’t (reportedly) played on a piano, per se: “Richard recorded this song on a Disklavier, a type of mechanised player piano, and there are moments which could challenge even the most competent pianist, if played note-for-note.”

Above I link to numerous different versions. I decided, in the interest of simplicity, to only embed one. This is Stephen Newhouse’s lovely arrangement for music box, which has accrued nearly a quarter of a million views on YouTube in the past dozen years. (Newhouse politely includes a link from his video to someone who had done the same two years prior.)

On Repeat: Synth, Oliveros, Khosla

Home/office playlist

Brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ Beautiful ambient track from the England-based musician Oscillator Sink, a solo piece on the Lyra-8 synthesizer: droning, slow-motion, grainy atmospherics.

▰ The ensemble Apartment House, founded by the cellist Anton Lukoszevieze, has recorded a full album of works by Pauline Oliveros, Sound Pieces, for the Another Timbre record label. Four of its 13 tracks are available to preview on its Bandcamp page. Deeply felt performances, played with admirable patience with patient listeners in mind.


Tightrope is a characteristically beautiful and intriguing, in equal parts, album from Michel Banabila, the Rotterdam-based musician. The “rope” in question might be the strings of a violin, given the textured ambient orchestral quality of the music. It begins with tension somewhere between the work of film composers Carter Burwell and Bernard Herrmann, and then unfurls into something graceful and glorious.


▰ Also, Siddhartha Khosla’s music for the new TV show Rabbit Hole (a conspiracy-fueled thriller starring Kiefer Sutherland) is fantastic. It has some of the most unusual instrumentation, glitchiness, and sampling I’ve heard in a major TV production in a long time. I don’t think the score itself has been released yet. I’ve heard and enjoyed his music in Only Murders in the Building and The Mysterious Benedict Society, but this is next level.

Scratch Pad: Jordan, Molvær, Fiction

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, usually in the morning over coffee: collating most of the little comments I’ve made on social media (as well as related notes), which I think of as my public scratch pad, during the preceding week. These days that mostly means @[email protected] (on Mastodon). Sometimes the material pops up earlier or in expanded form.

▰ You almost have to admire how when DuckDuckGo doesn’t have a useful response it just shoves a bunch of unrelated stuff at you at random.

▰ The laptop keeps changing “mapo tofu” to “mayo tofu” and, well, ick

▰ RIP, saxophonist Kidd Jordan (1935-2023), one of the greats. I think the first time I saw his name may have been as part of the title of the last track (“Kidd Jordan’s Second Line”) on a Dirty Dozen Brass Band record, The New Orleans Album (1990), but I soon grew to learn about how much further out his music went, thanks to his work with Hamiet Bluiett, William Parker, and many others. Here he is live with drummer Andrew Cyrille just four years ago at the Vision Festival in Brooklyn, in June of 2019. Aim to be this vibrant at 84 — or, heck, at any age:

▰ It’s called The New York Times Spelling Bee but it should be called The New York Times Teaches You Random Words for Fish and Plants.

▰ Watching a new Nils Petter Molvær performance means keeping the video open in one tab while tracking down details in another on whoever else is in the band, because the trumpeter has always got great colleagues, here percussionist Erland Dahlen and bassist Berger Myhre.

▰ I read a bunch in March. I finished three novels and a long book of short stories in the process. The novels were Chemistry by Weike Wang, The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz, and Box 88 by Charles Cumming. (I reviewed the short story collection for a magazine, so I’ll wait until it’s out before mentioning the book here.)

On Repeat: Serge, Guðnadóttir

Home/office playlist

Brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ Mark Lentczner, aka Electric Kitchen, performs this deep drone piece for the 50th anniversary of the Serge synthesizer instrument line developed by Serge Tcherepnin. Lentczner is one of numerous participants on a recent series of albums collecting Serge-centric works.

▰ The great film-score composer Hildur Guðnadóttir took part in the “What’s in My Bag?” video series from Amoeba Records. In it she talks animatedly about Gavin Bryars, Mortan Feldman, Ellen Fullman, Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, and other favorites. She’s currently working on Joker: Folie à Deux, the sequel to the move that won her an Oscar. (Thanks, Paul Ashby, for pointing this video out.)

On Repeat: NIN Cover, De Vis & Co.

Home/office playlist

Brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ This is my favorite of some of the recent pieces that guitarist Simon Farintosh has posted, maybe because it feels especially close to the original in tone, like the pace of the source material and the size of the room in which it was captured. Farintosh is best known for his transcriptions for classical guitar of Aphex Twin’s music (about which I’ve interviewed him). Here he does “The Frail” from Nine Inch Nails.

▰ Gorgeous trio, featuring frequent Disquiet Junto participant De Vis with bassist Roy Mastega and a horn player I’ve yet to identify. It’s somewhere between a slowed down “Love Supreme” and an especially stripped down Jon Hassell.

▰ And I’ve been spending a lot of time with some other albums I’ve mentioned recently, notably Years of Ambiguity from keyboardist Kjetil Husebø, supported by Eivind Aarset and Arve Henriksen, and Travel from the Necks.