Though Richard D. James' Aphex Twin recordings have skated electronic music's bleeding edge for much of the past decade, the landmark Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Classics sets are only now seeing

APHEX TWIN
Selected Ambient Works 85-92
PRODUCER: Richard D. James
PIAS America 4

APHEX TWIN
Classics
PRODUCER: Richard D. James
PIAS America 5






Though Richard D. James' Aphex Twin recordings have skated electronic music's bleeding edge for much of the past decade, the landmark Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Classics sets are only now seeing their first domestic release via PIAS America. Both collections span the embryonic period in James' career when the then-relatively unknown DJ/ producer composed tracks in his bedroom studio. Experimental for the time, SAW 85-92 still holds up quite well, showing James' knack for reinvigorating dance music clichés with his own warped aesthetic. SAW 85-92 proceeds at a glacial pace, with beautiful peaks and valleys cascading from James' primitive-sounding keyboards. Though there's plenty to like here, including the acid-jazz blueprint "We Are the Music Makers," the brightest gem is the playful "Ageispolis," which sets minimalist organ drones, atmospheric washes, and video-game bleeps atop a pristine electro beat. The more jittery Classics sees James experimenting with jackhammer tempos and industrial textures. From the acid-fried bass and bleary-eyed melodies of "Digerdoo" to the distilled paranoia of "Metapharstic," Classics only hints at the manic drill'n'bass sounds James would later perfect. Better remembered will be the aptly named "Analogue Bubblebath 1," which percolates with cheerful synth tones and an insistent beat. Those who only recently discovered Aphex Twin via last year's critically acclaimed two-disc set Drukqs and 1999's Windowlicker EP (both on Sire) will find that Classics, and SAW 85-92 especially, provide a good starting point in cracking the code of one of today's most challenging left-field artists. Longtime admirers of James' Aphex Twin alter ego will simply revel in the fact that these discs are finally seeing the U.S. light of day.—JDF