Thursday, 19 December 2013

Aphex Twin - ...I Care Because You Do (1995)

So here I am catching up once again, having a listen to things which somehow passed me by at the time. Obviously I was aware of the Aphex Twin throughout the 1990s. He regularly appeared on the cover of everything on account of having single-handedly invented an entirely new kind of music. I was a Melody Maker reader for most of that decade, mainly because David Stubbs' Mr. Agreeable column was a work of genuine inspiration, something not to be missed regardless of whatever crap was then clogging up the other pages, The Liberties, The Shite Stripes or whoever. My frustration with the non-Stubbs derived content of said weekly would occasionally boil over into testy and probably grammatically ham-fisted missives thrust in the general direction of the letters page, one of which was actually printed. Why you no write about experimental band, I demanded to know, reeling off a list of names of artists who had been around for ages, who sold records, had plenty of fans, played well-attended gigs and yet remained ignored within the pages of the mainstream music press. We do indeed cover the work of interesting and innovative musical pioneers, came the reply, but the bold leaps of which you speak are occurring on the dance floor and within the DJ booth rather than with the sort of miserable industrial fuckers you seem to like.

I always assumed they meant Aphex Twin and his ilk, but I'd never heard any of his music. My friend Carl, once thumbing through my copy of Melody Maker, found a photograph of a grinning Richard James pulling a scary face, underlit and glowering at the reader from beneath portentously furrowed brow. 'That tells me all I need to know about his music,' Carl announced, and although he may not have been right about everything, in this instance I suspected he was close. My friend Andrew Cox was similarly underwhelmed by the Aphex Twin. Andrew was often described as a recluse, had grown up in Cornwall, and had been making electronic music with his own home-built synthesisers since the end of the 1970s, and was perhaps justifiably resentful that no music paper had ever stuck him on the cover as creator of the most wildly innovative music ever conceived.

Now, many years later and relatively impressed by the Come To Daddy video - even if it is just an old Hellblazer comic with a load of drum and bass sprinkled on top - I take the plunge and buy this; and  realise that I was right all along.

There are twelve tracks here, and nothing terrible, but - fuck - it's hardly a new kind of music. The names that sprang immediately to mind include Esplendor Geometrico, Nagamatzu, Pseudo Code, Nocturnal Emissions, Human Flesh, Kopf/Kurz, early Chris & Cosey, and Konstruktivists Black December album. In other words there's very little here which hadn't already been done, and been done better by about 1982 when the German Datenverarbeitung label put out their Sinn & Form compilation. I realise that nothing exists in a vacuum or without precedent, but most of ...I Care Because You Do could have been knocked up on a decent four track with a monophonic synth and an Alesis Quadraverb, and there's at least one number here which would have been someone tapping out a plinky plonky nursery rhyme on a Casio VL Tone had it not been drowned in a ton of reverb. I suppose this stuff may have sounded improbably futuristic in 1995 if this was the first electronically sourced album to find its way into your collection of Oasis and Morrissey records, just as fifth century yokels will believe you're a wizard if you flash your digital watch, but fuck...

This is the guy who changed the musical history of everything ever, whom they wheeled out to meet Stockhausen like it was some sort of clash of the titans rather than Michael McIntyre having a beer with Lenny Bruce? I prefer James' own assessment:

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.

Well, hyperbole aside, ...I Care Because You Do is a thoroughly listenable album providing you keep in mind that it really shouldn't have been that big a deal even in 1995. It does what it does very well, which is fair enough, I suppose.

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