Although much of the music that has made me and continues to inspire me now is based in the traditional structures of song – verses, choruses and delightful melodies – there’s another part of me that thrives listening to the leftfield. No other artist satisfies this desire for the more peculiar than Aphex Twin. The first Aphex Twin album I purchased was his classic Ambient Works. It was a mesmerising recording full of graceful looping synths, out there beats and calm creeping atmospheres that I would put on constant repeat for hours and hours. I loved the way the tracks were in no rush, everything in the music appeared when it was ready and not before.
Following its release Aphex Twin became the king of experimental and underground music, throwing out remixes, singles and albums at some rate of knots and with a somewhat maverick approach. Rumour has it that he was meant to remix a Lemonheads track and when the record company came to collect it he hadn’t even started work on it, so he just gave them a half-finished demo he had been working on and they loved it.
His gigs became legendary; there were tales of DJ sets where he would put on sandpaper discs instead of records. When I went to see him play at The Old Trout Pub in Windsor (before his status ensured that grotty pub gigs would be out of the question) he set his equipment up at the back of the stage, filled the place with dry ice and blasted mind numbing techno at ear crushing volumes out to the crowd. When he left stage the music just continued and nobody knew when to applaud or even leave the venue. My most vivid memory of that gig was a zoned out hippy standing at the front with his ear pressed hard against the speaker as the beats punched out – his hearing surely destroyed for life.
I have many loved Aphex Twin tracks, but it’s On, a single that wasn’t featured on any of his albums that is my favourite. It finds a measured balance between his ambient material and harsher techno work. The video for the track was also directed by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp fame. Although the likes of Come To Daddy and Windowlicker with their freakily menacing horror show Chris Cunningham directed videos are more universally well-known it was On that achieved Aphex Twins first ever UK Top 40 single, which for music that was obtusely non-commercial is some achievement.