Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Category: Music

Richard D James, or the artist formerly known as Aphex Twin

It seems every year or two I get on an Aphex Twin kick, revisiting some of my old favorites from Drukqs and beyond.  Usually these reminiscences lead to reading an old interview or two.  I’m not sure if I like his music or public persona more.  Interviews tend to fall into two categories — the more professional interviewees get lambasted by James while the more casual encounters uncover some real gems.  Like this one.  It’s in a narrative style, but James’ very British humor comes out hilariously.  Some highlights:

“The Warp press release states that he ‘has been teaching his computer to write music so he can spend more time shagging'”.

“I tell him about when I go to bed drunk without drinking any water.  In my dreams, I drink soft drink after soft drink trying to quench my thirst.  Says Aphex, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, I do that as well. It’s worse, if you piss yourself as well.  I’ve done that about three times, when I’ve been drunk.  You want to go to the toilet so much, but you’re drunk, so you just dream it.  And then when you wake up, you go, “Ah fucking hell, I’ve pissed myself.”’”

“Talk about strange purchases.  A priori the vault aquisition, he bought a tank.  A real tank — it even fires, but he uses this function sparingly, cause he only has four rounds of ammo left.  He bought it in Cornwall, but his mom and dad moved to Wales, so he moved it with them.  He’s going to try to bring it to London.  The thought occurs to me that this must bring some grief from the government.    ‘But no one actually thinks of stopping you.  Like the police laugh when they see you.  They don’t think of stopping you, because it’s too ridiculous to even contemplate,’ he says”.

James hasn’t released any music in six years.  Analord was pretty weak in comparison to just about all of his full-length studio albums, especially Drukqs.  I would be surprised if he released anything else, as it is pretty clear that he has no desire to, either personally or financially.  I suppose when you can entertain the idea of buying your own submarine it means you’re pretty well set.

It’s a pity, as his prolific music-making nature pretty much guarantees some surely stunning music.  Perhaps we’ll see some yet.  As for now, I’ll keep reading old interviews for laughs.



Got rhythm?

Today at work I was listening to some Beatles tunes and gave pause to a certain one: “She said she said” from Revolver (their best album IMO). I was really getting into it, but wasn’t exactly sure why; the lyrics are kinda cryptic (supposedly it’s about an acid trip) and the guitar parts aren’t really that unique. After a little introspection it came to me: drums! Ringo’s drum part is one of the most interesting of any of their songs; it doesn’t really follow any other instrument but complements them all beautifully while driving the song forward.

Ok, so this isn’t really a relevation. I have known for years how much I dig a sweet beat, even going so far as to remark “rhythm’s in my veins, baby” to some girl at one point on a dance floor somewhere (Europe, probably). It’s why I’ve gone through so many different genres in my many musical phases over the years, from the insane electronic percussion of Aphex Twin’s Drukqs to the polyrhythms of Tool’s Lateralus to John McEntire’s orchestrated genius in Tortoise.

I’ve never really acted on it, though. A couple months ago I was playing Rock Band at a friend’s place and picked the drumset as my instrument. After starting on medium difficulty it only took a few songs to advance to hard, where the drum part is only slightly different than the actual song. Sure, the movement’s not quite the same, but you do have four toms and a kick drum so any deficit in coordination will hurt. It was pretty fluid and oh so much fun. Well damn, I thought, why not pick up a drumset myself?

I would, actually, if I hadn’t just bought a new guitar (no, it wasn’t that expensive). My roommate plays drums but I’ve been unsuccessful in coercing him to bring it out from Colorado. I’m not even concerned about the usual annoyances of owning a drumset:

  1. Space. My room is massive and could easily accommodate a drumset.
  2. Noise. I live in a college neighborhood, they’re all noisy punks anyway.

The only concern is annoying people with my suck-ness for the first few weeks. Oh, and money, which hopefully my tax refund will take care of!

It’s time to stop getting down to the beat and start laying down the beat. You know what I’m talking about.

Sonic Memory

Today I was at work typing away and listening to Pandora when a song came on, a familiar one that flipped a mental switch. The tune was Loose Fur‘s ‘Chinese Apple,’ a soothing, wandering acoustic tune that took me back to my junior year in college, when I would go to Bristol every Tuesday night in the winter to ski. I would ski hard from about 4-10 and come back to my car to see that my iPod ‘s batteries had died due to the cold. A mixed tape of Evan’s would accompany me during the 45 minute drive back to Rochester, and ‘Chinese Apple’ was one of the standout tracks.

So there I am, sitting at my desk with headphones, and I’d be suddenly transported back, not to that time and place but rather that moment and feeling. A lonely but content feeling, just me and the road with the heat cranking and great tunes blasting during my favorite time of year.

Does this ever happen to anyone else? I can name several songs and albums that take me back to various points in my life, from recent situations all the way back to third grade. There’s The Beatles’ ‘Long long long,’ one of my favorites from the White Album that I played so extensively in my flat in Osnabrück, Germany; notably once at four in the morning when I stayed up all night before catching an early train to take me down to Bad Gastein, Austria. (Funny how both of these memories revolve, tangentially, around skiing. You can see where my mind is these days…) Eager anticipation tinged with some anxiety about the long solo trip ahead.

Then there’s Ben Folds Five’s “Whatever and Ever Amen,” taking me back to the summer after eighth grade and sitting in the back of a VW Passat with my family as we toured much of Southwest England. Specifically, pulling out of a parking lot on to a major street where some gracious Brit flashed his lights at us letting us go through (one of those random, insignificant but very vivid memories that stick with you over the years). And then, Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Core’, the first album I ever listened to (not understanding any of the lyrics of course). I would sit on the floor next to my parent’s CD player with these old beater headphones for hours, taking in the music. I was no more than nine years old.

I could go on for pages about this stuff. Writing about one reminds me of three others. There’s Animal Collective’s ‘Sung Tongs,’ in my opinion the quintessential summer album. It’s warm, light and upbeat, much like our demeanor as Evan and I made our way in his car across the coast of Lake Michigan on the way back to spending a few days with our folks in the U.P. in July 2005. I don’t think I even liked it all that much (subconsciously, well, looks like that was another story)!

It’s an interesting reminder of the relationships between vision, hearing and memory. I’ve always considered myself a very visual person (still do) but I see there’s a substantial musical component too. Some experiences you’ll remember for a few years, but others with a great soundtrack you’ll remember forever. Not only that but a click of the play button can bring you right back there, if not physically than wholly emotionally. Now that the snow’s coming, I’m going to need pick up that Loose Fur album…

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