Music: Aphex Twin

"I'm just some irritating, lying, ginger kid from Cornwall who should have been locked up in some youth detention centre. I just managed to escape and blag it into music."
Aphex Twin

Richard D. James (b. 1971), better known as Aphex Twin (amongst other stage names), is an Irish-born electronic artist and founder of the Rephlex Records label. He was raised and spent much of his career based in Cornwall, England but currently resides in Glasgow.

He is highly known for his innovations in the genre and is credited as probably the most influential figure in contemporary electronic music, establishing many components of the blueprint that the genre runs on. He's also known for his experimental, Genre-Busting / Genre Roulette songs and his love of using Blatant Lies in interviews for fun.

He started making music at the age of 11 by tinkering with one of his home computers and hasn't looked back ever since. His first album, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which was released on February 12, 1992, received overwhelming praise from critics after some years of false starts, setting James on the path to electronic music fame as well as the blueprint for the whole Braindance movement.

While he is known in some ways as a Trope Maker for ambient techno thanks to the aforementioned SAW 85-92, his material is very diverse and frequently employs pseudonyms, ranging between pure ambience (SAW Vol. II), sad, beautiful Lonely Piano Pieces (most of them on Drukqs), eardrum-splitting drum 'n' bass (...I Care Because You Do), acid techno (his early AFX/Caustic Window material, plus the Analord 12" series) and his trademark combination of upbeat melodies with complicated beats (Richard D. James Album, Drukqs). His 2014 album Syro (his first full-length release in 13 years!) falls somewhere in-between the last two styles respectively.

Oddly enough, out of two of his best-known mainstream hits (that'd be "Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker"), one has experienced Creator Backlash and the other is a Black Sheep Hit.


Discography

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    Under Aphex Twin 

Studio Albums
  • Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
  • Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
  • ...I Care Because You Do (1995)
  • Melodies From Mars (1995) (unreleased; however, Richard has suggested in an interview that he is remaking it and planning an official release)
  • Richard D. James Album (1996)
  • Drukqs (2001)
  • Syro (2014)

EPs
  • Digeridoo (1992)
  • Xylem Tube (1992)
  • On (1993)
  • Ventolin (1995)
  • Donkey Rhubarb (1995)
  • Girl/Boy (1996)
  • Come to Daddy (1997)
  • Windowlicker (1999)
  • Analord 10 (2005)
  • Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 (2015)

Compilations
  • Classics (1994)
  • 51/13: Aphex Singles Collection (1996)
  • 26 Mixes for Cash (2003)
  • Chosen Lords (2006)

    Under AFX 

EPs
  • Analogue Bubblebath (1991)
  • Analogue Bubblebath 2 (1991)
  • Analogue Bubblebath 3 (1992)
  • Analogue Bubblebath 4 (1994)
  • Analogue Bubblebath 5 (1995)
  • Hangable Auto Bulb EP (1995)
  • Hangable Auto Bulb EP 2 (1995)
  • Analogue Bubblebath 3.1 (1997)
  • Smojphace EP (2003)
  • Analords 1-9, 11 (2005)
  • AFX / LFO|AFX / LFO split 12" (2005)

Compilations
  • Hangable Auto Bulb (1995 and 2005 re-release)
  • Chosen Lords (2006)

Single
  • 2 Remixes by AFX (2001)

    Under Caustic Window 

Album
  • Untitled (1994) (formerly unreleased, finally released in 2014)

EPs
  • Joyrex J4 EP (1992)
  • Joyrex J5 EP (1992)
  • Joyrex J9ii (1993)

Single
  • Joyrex J9i (1993)

Compilation

    Under misc. aliases 

As Bradley Strider
  • Bradley's Beat (1991)
  • Bradley's Robot (1993)

As Gak
  • Gak (1994)

As Green Calx
  • Green Calx (1993) (unreleased)

As Polygon Window
  • Surfing on Sine Waves (1993)
  • Quoth (1993)

As Power-Pill
  • Pac-Man (1992)

As Q-Chastic
  • Q-Chastic EP (1992) (unreleased)

The Tuss
  • Rushup Edge
  • Confederation Trough EP

Collaboration album
  • Mike (-ziq) & Rich:
    • Expert Knob Twiddlers (1996)


Aphex Tropes:

  • Absurdly Long Limousine: The beginning of the video for "Windowlicker"
  • Affectionate Parody: The cover art for Mike & Rich parodies the box art for the Milton Bradley game Downfall.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: He owns a Daimler Ferret Mk 3 armoured car.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The 'Donkey Rhubarb' video
  • Bilingual Bonus: Syro contains some weird samples spoken in Russian, like Псевдо-растяжение звука во времени ("Pseudo stretching of sound in time") or Носочки ("Little socks").
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick.
    • Consider the lyrics to the song "Milkman", sung in a odd monotone-yet-cheerful jingle.
      I wish the milkman would deliver my milk in the morning,
      I wish the milkman would deliver my milk when I'm yawning,
      I would like some milk from the milkman's wife's tits...
    • A more jarring version appears on "Funny Little Man." The song proper isn't all that bad, assuming you don't mind that a pitched-up, autotuned James sounds exactly like Rolf on acid, but what follows is a Plaintalk program threatening to sodomize, stalk, and castrate the listener before eating their genitals.
  • Blatant Lies: Richard's well known for deliberately misleading both the press and his fans with very bizarre lies. He has claimed, amongst other things, to sleep only around 3 hours a night, as well as the ownership of a large square building with no windows in the middle of a South London roundabout (it actually contains a power transformer).
  • Body Horror: It would be easier to list examples of his videos that don't invoke this trope.
  • Broken Record:
    • "Come To Daddy". Its lyrics are "I want your soul/I will eat your soul", with a part where the song title is repeated over and over again... And don't forget that bloodcurling scream.
    • "Milkman" alternates between repeating "I wish the milkman would deliver my milk in the morning / I wish the milkman would deliver my milk when I'm yawning" and repeating "I would like some milk from the milkman's wife's tits".
    • "Funny Little Man" has a child's voice repeatedly saying "Come on, you little funny man!"
  • Butter Face: Used infamously in "Windowlicker."
  • Careful With That Axe: All we can say about "Come To Daddy, Pappy Mix" is that Richard's got quite a larynx on him.
  • Child Prodigy: At age 11, Richard tinkered around with a Sinclair ZX81 computer and wound up writing a program that caused it to produce sound, even though they lack sound hardware. He even won 50 pounds for it.
    • However, he didn't gain his skills as a musician until later on, as the GAK demos prove.
    • If you take the SAW 85-92 title into thought, that means that some of the oldest tracks on that album were made when Richard was only 14.
    • In an interview, he said that his five year old son had downloaded music software from the Pirate Bay and put the songs on Bandcamp.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Assumed, due to some of the anecdotes he's told.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The first half of the "Windowlicker" video.
  • Country Matters:
    • Apart from an answering machine message, Drukqs is an entirely instrumental album. The one lyric, "COME ON YOU CUNT LET'S HAVE SOME APHEX ACID", is screamed in the middle of "Cock/ver10" and was a phrase used in promotion for the album.
    • The penultimate track on the Caustic Window LP is titled "Cunt".
  • Cross Referenced Titles:
    • "Blue Calx" on SAW Volume II, "Yellow Calx" on Richard D. James Album, "Green Calx" on SAW 85-92, and "4 Red Calx" from his Soundcloud tracks.
    • SAW Volume II had many examples of this trope:
      • Some tracks have titles associated with nature ("Grass", "Tree", "Lichen").
      • Disc 1 had "Weathered Stone" while Disc 2 had "Stone in Focus".
      • Disc 1's closing track was "White Blur 1", and Disc 2's penultimate track was "White Blur 2".
  • Dedication: The name Aphex Twin is dedicated to his older brother, also named Richard D. James, who died during childbirth.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The Come to Daddy EP cover.
  • Digital Head Swap: The cover for "Windowlicker" puts his bearded face on a bikini-clad girl.
  • Distinct Double Album: Selected Ambient Works Volume II and Drukqs.
  • Drone of Dread: Selected Ambient Works Volume II alternates between what most people think of when they hear the words "ambient music" and this trope. A good example of this trope in play on the album is "Stone in Focus", which actually combines the two categories.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Strangely inverted with "Selected Ambient Works 8592", which is not only his most acclaimed album to date by fans and critics, but also the most normal compared to his later ventures into dark ambient and IDM, which got progressively weirder and weirder.
  • Easter Egg:
  • Epic Rocking: Richard loves this trope. Do note that the examples listed below are only some of the examples in his discography.
    • The entirety of SAW 85-92 except for "I", which is justified since it's sort of an ambient interlude. The longest track is "Tha" at just over 9 minutes.
    • The amount of SAW Volume II tracks that are less than five minutes long can be counted on one hand ("Hankie", "White Blur 1", "Grey Stripe", "Z Twig", "Lichen"). The longest track is "White Blur 2" at eleven-and-a-half minutes long.
    • 7 out of the 12 tracks on ...I Care Because You Do are over 5 minutes long, with the opening track "Acrid Avid Jam Shred" as the longest (7:38).
    • Richard D. James Album had no tracks that fit this criteria, although "Girl/Boy Song" (4:52) got fairly close.
    • 8 out of the 15 tracks on Drukqs are over 5 minutes long, with the 8.5-minute long "Ziggomatic 17" as the longest.
    • 7 out of the 12 tracks on Syro are over 5 minutes long, with the 10.5-minute long "XMAS_EVET10 [120] (thanaton3 mix)" being the longest.
    • On the Windowlicker EP, the Title Track as well as "Equation" are both around 6 minutes long.
    • "Digeridoo" is 7 minutes and 11 seconds long.
    • "Dodeccaheedron" on the Xylem Tube EP is just over 6 minutes.
    • Two thirds of the original '93 release of Surfing on Sine Waves, with the longest track being the 7-minute "If It Really Is Me".
    • Quoth EP had the 8-minute Wooden Thump mix of "Quoth".
    • Half of Rushup Edge was over six minutes long, with another track being over 5 minutes. The longest was "Last Rushup 10" (6:36).
    • Half of 26 Mixes for Cash was over 5 minutes long, with the longest being the 10-minute "Journey, Aphex Twin Care Mix".
    • On EP had the 7-minute Title Track and the 7-minute "D-Scape", as well as all of the remixes. The longest was the D-Scape mix at almost 11 minutes.
    • The Salbutamol, Crowsmengegus, Wheeze, Cylob, and Deep Gong mixes of "Ventolin".
    • "MARCHROMT30A edit 2b 96", the Japanese bonus track of Syro, is 7 minutes and 19 seconds long.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: "Monkey Drummer", a music video made by Chris Cunningham for the song "Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael's Mount".
  • Fan Disservice: The music video of "Windowlicker" has the girls' faces transforming into that of Richard's Slasher Smile grin and a really hideous woman near the end.
  • Funny Background Event: Let's take a look at the Come to Daddy EP. A bunch of kids with Richard's face creepily grinning at you and...what's that on the far left? A kid doing a gang sign?
  • Genre-Busting / Genre Roulette: His discography is one of the most diverse ones in electronic music history, ranging from blissful ambient music to piano pieces to archetypal IDM to horrifying beat-sliced madness, as well as basically everything in between. His albums are also prone for swapping between musical styles and genres at the drop of a hat between tracks, or perhaps within a single track.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • Gratuitous French: The sole lyric on "Windowlicker" ("J'aime faire des croquettes au chien", or "I like to make dog nuggets".)
    • Gratuitous Russian: Several of the lyrics in "Syro", as listed above.
  • Humanoid Abomination: How Richard D, James often likes to portray himself and others in his videos.
    • In "Windowlicker", for example he seems to have the ability to transform others into 'clones' of himself. There's also the windowlicker.
    • The screaming man from "Come To Daddy" gets an honorable mention as well.
  • Idiosyncratic Song Naming: The more nonsensical titles on any given album are bound to have a theme:
    • The titles of the tracks on Selected Ambient Works Volume II are not so much names as they are photographs. This was done to all tracks except "Blue Calx".
    • Several of the titles on Hangable Auto Bulb and I Care Because You Do are anagrams of phrases pertinent to Aphex Twin.
    • Several tracks on Drukqs are in Welsh.
    • Analord 8, 9, and 11 all have tracks named after or akin to malware. This was apparently an attempt to discourage piracy.
    • All of the Syro tracks have nonsensically chosen names that also feature the BPM in brackets. Some of them also claim to be mixes, and others are named after the equipment and programs James has used.
  • I Have Many Names: Aphex Twin, AFX, Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Caustic Window, DJ Smojphace, GAK, Martin Tressider, Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Pritchad G. Kraymes,note  Prichard D. Jams, Q-Chastic, Tahnaiya Russell, The Dice Man, Soit P.P., The Tuss, and, by extension, both Brian and Karen Tregaskin
  • In Name Only: Several (but not all) of his "remixes" are actually original works.
  • Insistent Terminology: He is one of many IDM musicians who insist it be called Braindance, on the grounds that the term "Intelligent Dance Music" has elitist connotations.
  • Its Pronounced Tro Pay: There has been speculation over whether drukQs is pronounced as "drugs" or "drug use" ("drug-Qs").
  • Jerkass: There are a variety of stories, both confirmed and unconfirmed, about Richard being rude or spiteful to people.
    • When requested to remix a song for Madonna, he said that he would only agree if she were to portray herself as a pig on one of his songs.
    • When a representative for the band The Lemonheads came to his house one morning asking for the remix he was commissioned to do, he went to his studio, ripped a random song which was irrelevant to the song he was requested to do, and gave it to him for in exchange for thousands of dollars. Supposedly, this was due to Aphex completely forgetting about the remix he was commissioned to do, but apparently, he didn't demand money.
    • He looks and acts incredibly annoyed on several interviews.
    • Oddly enough, when there was a snafu regarding The Lonely Island sampling Avril 14th for "Iran (So Far Away)", Aphex Twin didn't mind and was "cool" about the whole thing. His label, however, wasn't.
    • On the other hand, he once criticized the desciption of his music as "Intelligent Dance Music", as it implied everyone else's music was stupid, before joking it was "really nasty" to everyone else's music.
    • Alternatively he may just be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Kubrick Stare: Richard sure likes to show off his creepy smile. The promotional video for ''26 Mixes for Cash'' compiles some his unsettling promotional photos.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: This is how "Peek 824545201" ends.
  • Light Is Not Good: In 'Windowlicker', James' clothes, umbrella and limo are stark white.
  • Long List: The packaging for Syro is a visual version of this trope.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Drukqs alternates between pounding breakcore and this trope. Examples include the most famous of the bunch, "Avril 14th", as well as "Strotha Tynhe" and the album's finale "nanou2".
  • Long Title:
    • Track 2 on the Windowlicker EP has, as a title, an incredibly long mathematical equation. For this reason, it's often referred to as "Equation" or "Formula".
    • Almost all of Syro is this, as most of the titles are akin to computer code (Two examples being "fz pseudotimestretch+e+3 [138.85]" and "syro u473t8+e [141.98]" (piezoluminescence mix)".
  • Loudness War: SAW 85-92 was remastered in 2008.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Once again, "Milkman", which, despite the lyrics, has a melody reminiscent of children's music.
    • Unless counting the Fan Video by David Firth.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: He unexpectedly fits into this scale. While "Windowlicker" is a soft 4, "Come To Daddy" is a solid 10-borderline 11. "Ventolin" might actually be enter Level 11 altogether.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Lyrical Dissonance aside, "Milkman" has a happy, peaceful feel to it. However, at the very beginning of the song, James's voice can be heard unintelligibly mumbling an anecdote about gouging a kid's eye out with his erect penis.
    • Selected Ambient Works Volume II consists of beautiful Sweet Dreams Fuel tracks alternating with atmospherically horrifying tracks.
    • On Come to Daddy, "Flim" is placed right after "Come to Daddy, Pappy Mix". In other words, one of his calmest and tranciest songs is placed after one of his heaviest and most terrifying songs.
    • Drukqs also falls prey to this. At first it seems to alternate between pounding breakcore and soft piano pieces, but then the ambient tracks show up...
    • Richard D. James Album has the extremely abrasive "Peek 824545201" being followed by the blissful and calm "Fingerbib"...which is in turn followed by another abrasive song, "Carn Marth".
  • Neologism: Syro, which is short for "Syrobonkus", a nonsense word that one of James' sons came up with while listening to material on the album.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • James' iconic unnerving smile, which seems to look creepy however it is depicted; just plain and pressed up to the camera (Richard D. James Album), in an oil painting (...I Care Because You Do), pasted onto children (Come to Daddy), and even onto bikini-clad women (Windowlicker).
    • The woman with a hideous, deformed face and buckteeth near the end of "Windowlicker". The fact that it was based on an H. R. Giger sketch certainly helps.
  • Nonindicative Name: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is not a wholly ambient album; its sequel, however, is.
  • Notable Music Videos: When Chris Cunningham's involved...
    • "Come To Daddy": filmed in one of the locations for A Clockwork Orange, it depicts an old woman walking her dog. The dog pisses on a pile of garbage and on a TV which brings itself to life, with a creepy being chanting out the lyrics of the song. From the building, a group of troublemaking kids with Richard D. James's trademark face with Slasher Smile start to wreak havoc and unintentionally bring the TV being to the real world. The being, then, screams out loud to the old woman and then gathers the kids to itself. WARNING: this video has content which can potentially cause nightmares.
    • "Windowlicker": filmed in Los Angeles. The video starts with two men (a black guy and a Latin-American guy) who love to swear, who then meet two sexy prostitutes. The two men want to have sex with the two girls, but the latter reject them because of their bad behavior. An heated discussion starts, which is then interrupted by the arrival of Richard D. James, depicted as a ridiculously rich pimp, who manages to score both of the women. The rest of the video will probably make you say "What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?".
  • Overly Long Gag: The Windowlicker video has two: the conversation between the two rappers, and eventually the two girls...which goes on for nearly FOUR MINUTES; and Richard's limo.
    • The packaging for Syro with the receipt as the cover stretches over several sides of the casing, which has to be folded over five times to be closed.
  • Precision F-Strike: See Country Matters above.
  • Pun: Surfing on Sine Waves. It's funny because sine waves are mathematical curves and aren't actually waves of water that you can surf.
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: Despite having a reputation for having thousands of hours of music recorded, there are a couple stories about how he almost missed deadlines. One story claims that a remix for a major record label was almost overdue and said label sent an agent to retrieve the tape directly from James, he dubbed off a copy of the first song off a random cassette and handed it to the agent.
  • Sampling: James' usage of samples is legendary within its own right. Very notable examples include:
    • "4", which includes Richard and his father; both appear in dialogue throughout the Richard D. James Album.
    • "Nannou", which is composed entirely of wind-up music box samples.
    • "We Are the Music Makers", the title of which comes from a line in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which is heard throughout the song.note 
    • "Carn Marth" and "Fingerbib" both start with very short sound clips.
    • "IZ-US" starts with a child saying "Stop making that big face!"
  • Self-Deprecation: The page quote comes from him describing himself in an interview.
  • Self-Titled Album: The Richard D. James Album.
  • Sensory Abuse: He's made several songs that are made to be as harsh as possible.
    • "Ventolin" is deliberately patterned after the side-effect Ventolin gives to some users (namely, harsh-sounding ringing in the ear).
    • "Come to Daddy" is a very harsh combination of static-y bass, heavy and intense percussion, and a somewhat distorted voice chanting about how much he's craving your soul.
    • The end of "Windowlicker" has a wall of extremely distorted, amplified, and fuzzy bass.
    • The start of "Peek 824545201" has some extremely grating instrumentation.
  • Sigil Spam: He used his face as a contrast to other musicians that were faceless. (Lampshaded during an interview where James admitted that he overdid it.) He's also done the same thing with his actual logo, though not to such a similar extent.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The two men in the "Windowlicker". Oh dear God.
  • Shout-Out:
    • On a rerelease of Surfing on Sine Waves, Richard included a song called "Redurth School", a school he went to when he was a child.
    • Three of the tracks on Richard D. James Album - "Carn Marth", "Goon Gumpas", and "Logan Rock Witch" - are named after landmarks in Cornwall.
  • Slasher Smile: Probably one of the most famous examples of this trope in music.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is not an ambient album; only one track ("i") can be seen as fitting under that genre. Volume II, however, is an ambient album.
    • "Goon Gumpas" and "Logon Rock Witch" (both off of Richard D. James Album) sound like they've been ripped straight out of cartoons.
    • "Girl/Boy Song" is based around an orchestral melody.
    • His contributions to The Downward Spiral's remix album Further Down the Spiral were the only tracks that weren't actually remixed; Richard made them from scratch without even hearing the original album, and says that he never wants to listen to the original anyway.
  • Surreal Music Video: On.
    • All of his music videos, really, more often than not foraying into Surreal Horror.
  • Take That: The music video for "Windowlicker" parodies rap music videos.
    • One who did an interview to Richard D. James said that "Come To Daddy" and "Windowlicker" feel respectively like take-thats to Black Metal and rap music.
    • One could interpret "Come To Daddy" as a Take That to Death Metal.
  • Tastes Like Purple: Richard is allegedly synesthetic. He claims to have used it as an inspiration for Selected Ambient Works Volume II.
  • Teen Genius: He was already producing music at age 12. Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was recorded during those years, which means he was making his first album at the ripe old age of 13.
  • Title Drop: done in "Taking Control" by a Synthetic Voice Actor.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Heard at circa two minutes in "Windowlicker". Obviously the sexual moan is chopped up to go in rhythm with the song.
  • Twenty Minutes with Jerks: The beginning of the 'Windowlicker' video. Then Richard D. James shows up.
  • Uncommon Time: Many of his songs have extreme syncopation and complicated instrumentation that make dancing to the music nigh-impossible. Many of the Richard D. James Album songs are good examples, as is "Windowlicker".
  • Word Puree Title: While his titling was unusual before ("Hedphelym", "Logon Rock Witch", "Schottkey 7th Path" etc), Syro took this Up to Eleven and beyond, bringing us such pronunciative nightmares as "Syro u473t8+e (Piezoluminescence Mix)", "S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)", "CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix)" and "Fz pseudotimestretch+e+3".
  • You Make Me Sic: The back of the Richard D. James Album has a tracklist written in Richard's own handwriting. Said handwriting is oddly piss-poor (unlike the more comprehensible one on ...I Care Because You Do) and crams words together, rendering some parts difficult to read. It's caused some annoyingly persistent misspellings of song titles, especially "Logan Rock Witch" (frequently mistaken for "Logon Rock Witch") and "Carn Marth" (frequently mistaken for "Corn Mouth")
    • Similarly, "Redurth School" is sometimes misspelled as "Redruth School".