AFX orphaned deejay selek 2006-2008

[Warp; 2015]

Styles: AFX acid
Others: Polygon Window, Aphex Twin, Caustic Window, The Tuss

Whether as Aphex or AFX, the appeal of listening to Richard D James’s work is the same. Like well-honed satire, his music’s always been a needed voice in the conversation, offering a fresh perspective to the most well-tread topics. The perspectives shown on Syro, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt. 2, and now on orphaned deejay selek 2006-2008 exemplify an artistic personality that is always considering new ways to express and affect, each aberrant stroke proffering new theories worth future study. Some saw Syro as a step backwards in RDJ’s progression as an electronic artist after such a long hiatus, understandable when compared to the glossy, hi-def hyperreal environments of more current electronic artists. But James’s music has never been explicitly about flaunting its innovation through its production and mastering. As AFX, his inimitable style prevails in scarce beat sketches with minimal loops, revealing a mind still actively turning convention on its head as though it were a foregone conclusion.

His best songs work with the same familiar aspects (a unique beat, minor chords, unintelligible vocals, the moment where the beat drops out), but maximize their potential in transitions and constant alterations. When RDJ is AFX, he works in analog and with more stripped-down instrumentation, but even his least complicated works under the alias carry a mood, often by diving fearlessly, immediately into expressive abstraction and indulging in habits that would be culled by a more insecure producer. Opener “serge fenix rendered 2” puts a hazy wah filter and heavy modulation on soft silvery keys, droning soft lullabies over a paranoid arp until it ends with a brittle, spastic convulsion. “bonus EMT beats” is exactly what the title describes, a few interlocking loops of metallic snares and racquetball pops, but flies at breakneck speed, darting around and collapsing in quick successions. It changes very little, slowly engraving its distinctive lines of logic, unlike “oberheim blacet1b,” which serves out copious drum samples in twisted configurations, every second a puzzle that takes two seconds to solve.

Like a satirist, he’s reflective and incisive, offering up songs with ingenious little inversions and adjustments, long-awaited improvements on a cliché, like the wry start-stops on “simple slamming b 2.” The reliable rule-breaking that occurs at these moments gives a subtle peek into just how individualized RDJ’s compositional style has become, how he arrives in relatively the same place we expect but in such an interesting way you want to know where he’s been and exactly what he was driving. Nothing seems to be chosen according to any preconceived ideas about song craft, but just what works in the moment, what fits the mood. If tones need to be micro’d and beats subdivided to impossible specifications to find that mood, so be it.

RDJ presents work only once it reaches peak finger-tappability, a little rock of melody in his pocket that he’s tumbled into a polished stone. orphaned deejay selek, already dated by design, unpacks and dismantles the old breaks it samples and makes totems of new rhythmic ingenuity. These beat sketches feel like long-studied observations on percussion and motion, delivered with the casual intuition of a lifelong creative who’s all too acquainted with these samples and how to move the silences between them. Although it isn’t as full-fledged or layered as a full-length Aphex work, it’s full of minor miracles, advanced lessons in acid appreciation and stirring little lines of drum poetry.

Links: AFX - Warp

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