After the commercial and critical success of ...I Care Because You Do, James released the Girl / Boy EP in August 1996, with the Title Track taking inspiration from the rapid, frenzied styles of drill and bass — which would end up heavily influencing the sonic direction of this album.
One of the key features of the album is its distinctly fast and intricate drum programming, making for some of the hardest-hitting beats an Aphex album had seen at the time. Aside from the general nods to the genres of jungle, drum and bass, and the aforementioned drill and bass, James also cited inspiration from several friends and fellow electronic musicians — Luke Vibert and Tom Jenkinson (better known as Squarepusher). Another notable aspect is the variety of influences; the album's sound is a mix of lush strings, experimental time signatures, and slow ambient melodies reminiscent of James' earlier work.
James said that most of the songs were made on a Macintosh computer, and that this album took much longer to make than other releases, with such production techniques as modulating his own voice and forming orchestral arrangements out of sampling a single violin note he taught himself to play.
The album opened to strong reviews, and has since been deemed one of the greatest albums of the year and the decade.
The official tracklist from the UK edition of the albumnote :
- "4" (3:37)
- "Cornish Acid" (2:14)
- "Peek 824545201" (3:05)
- "Fingerbib" (3:48)
- "Carn Marth" (2:33)
- "To Cure a Weakling Child" (4:03)
- "Goon Gumpas" (2:02)
- "Yellow Calx" (3:04)
- "Girl/Boy Song" (NLS mix) (4:52)
- "Logan Rock Witch" (3:33)
Logan Trope Witch:
- Album Intro Track: "4" basically sets the tone for the album, with fast drums, violin samples, and a soft keyboard.
- Face on the Cover: Continuing James' 90s tradition of plastering his face anywhere and everywhere, the disarmingly straightforward approach of this album's cover makes for one of the most memetically memorable instances of this trope in modern music.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Cornish Acid" ends with the same monotone hum that begins "Peek 824545201", and in turn the next track "Fingerbib" also contains the same hum although it's fragmented and practically inaudible without headphones.
- Genre Roulette: The album's sound is an eclectic blend of DNB/jungle, glitch, ambient, and acid techno, and switches genres between songs.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: How "Peek 824545201" ends.
- Lighter and Softer: Several of the songs, like the ambient techno cut "Fingerbib" or the overtly cartoon-esque "Goon Gumpas" and "Logan Rock Witch". "Girl/Boy Song" too, which is dreamy and blissful despite the erratic, fast-paced percussion.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover shows James himself doing a Slasher Smile, and nothing else.
- Mood Whiplash: The album goes to different moods each and every track. For example, the extremely abrasive "Peek 824545201" being followed by the blissful and calm "Fingerbib"...which is in turn followed by another abrasive song, "Carn Marth".
- New Sound Album: A lot faster and lot more varied than his previous works, inspired by the aforementioned Vibert and Jenkinson, who James called the only guys who were "musically consistent enough" for him, and provided an impetus for him to break away from his slower paces.
- One-Word Title: "4", "Fingerbib"
- Self-Titled Album: Uses Aphex Twin's real name, to boot.
- Shout-Out: Three of the tracks — "Carn Marth", "Goon Gumpas", and "Logan Rock Witch" — are named after landmarks in James' hometown in Cornwall.
- Something Completely Different: "Goon Gumpas" and "Logan Rock Witch" sound like they've been ripped straight out of cartoons, an unprecedented and unduplicated first for Aphex songs.
- Spoken Word in Music: "4" has a brief and repeated clip of an exchange between Richard and his father.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: See Lighter and Softer above.
- You Make Me Sic: The back of the album has a tracklist written in James' 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").