My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: saw2for33third

Retail Opportunism

Someone at this snack food company likes the work of Aphex Twin.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Shuttlecock/ver10

An ersatz AFX sighting

When your very cheap badminton racket looks like Aphex Twin merchandise.

And because the internet can be a confusingly small place, none other than Paul Nicholson, the graphic designer of Aphex Twin’s famed logo, joked on my Facebook post of this same photo: “When my wife hears me playing Aphex Twin, she always says, ‘What a racket!'”

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Aphex Twin in Translation

The Japanese edition of my 33 1/3 book on Selected Ambient Works Volume II

I just today received copies of the brand new Japanese translation of my book on Aphex Twin’s landmark album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. My book was published in 2014 to coincide with the album’s 20th anniversary, and the Japanese translation arrived this year to coincide with its 25th.

This is especially a thrill because I spent many years working in manga, helping shepherd the translation into English Japanese comics. I was the editor-in-chief of the English-language edition of the major Japanese manga magazine, Shonen Jump, and of its sibling, Shojo Beat, and as a vice president of their publisher, Viz Media in San Francisco, had the opportunity to meet and interview many major manga creators, including Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball). It’s very nice to be now have sent my own book in the opposite direction.

The edition is absolutely beautiful, with a wraparound cover partially obscuring the classic Aphex Twin logo, and lovely details throughout — in particular, note how there is a little table of contents on the bottom of each left-hand page, with a tiny arrow showing you which chapter you’re in.

I look forward to learning how the quotes from Alvin Lucier, Daphne Oram, and Fernando Pessoa were translated, in particular the Pessoa and Lucier given how much their work engages with variations on source material, notably Pessoa’s numerous alternate heteronyms and the decay inherent in Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.”

The Japanese book is considerably larger than the original English book (top), and even than the recent Spanish edition (middle), which came out in late 2018. I’m not aware of any planned additional translations, but these sure make me happy.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Tokyo Sightings

And in good company

One of the students in my sound course was in Tokyo over spring break and took these photos for me at two separate bookstores: one of a sizable display of my (translated into Japanese) Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book (and in good company: the Yellow Magic Orchestra book), and the other of it nestled between Prince and Coldplay.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

25 Years of Selected Ambient Works Volume II

How the 1994 album prepared us for today

It’s now 25 years and a day since Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II came out. It was released on the Warp Records label following fast on a single, “On,” one that in no way laid the foundation in listeners’ ears — and, before that, two years earlier, had been Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which was far more foregrounded sonically.

There were other releases from Richard D. James in between — notably the full-length Surfing on Sine Waves, under another Aphex pseudonym, Polygon Window — that came closer, but SAWII was and remains its own quiet beast, with little precedent or subsequently in the works of Aphex Twin that approaches its emphasis on atmosphere and the subtle nuances of its rhythmic expression.

When RDJ resurfaced in 2014 after an extended quiet period, he uploaded hundreds of unreleased tracks to a variety of playful SoundCloud accounts, turning a new generation of listeners on to his deepest crates, and many of them into trainspotters. Still, few among those vast outtakes felt of a piece with Selected Ambient Works Volume II. The SoundCloud files confirmed a longstanding rumor of vast archives, and also further identified SAWII as a unique recording.

Another quarter-century gap from, say, 1955 to 1980 can be measured in various ways. From Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” to Queen’s “Queen Crazy Little Thing Called Love” it seems quite proximate — from the McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely” to Kurtis Blow’s self-titled debut, considerably less so. The gap from 1994 to 2019 doesn’t feel as wide to me, but that no doubt has to do with me having been alive and a fully conscious adult for the duration. There may be less music by Aphex Twin that sounds akin to Selected Ambient Works Volume II, but there is considerably more music in general today that does than in 1994, not just music but more broadly a culture that reflects its rich interiority, its minimalist impetus, and its acoustic curiosity — from the sound design of filmed entertainment and video games, to the ubiquitous if rangy field come to be known as sound art, to the increasing personal attention we pay, individually, to our intimate sonic spaces.

In many ways Selected Ambient Works Volume II — building, of course, on its own decades-old influences — laid the groundwork for what sound sounds like in 2019. Here’s to another quarter century.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]