Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 24)
Apparently, Aphex Twin performs live. I cannot imagine what people do at those shows. You can’t dance to this, but you can’t really sit still either and I cannot even begin to imagine the terror of taking club drugs to it. So what are those crowds doing? Do they just sit around and twitch? Or maybe they bring their laptops and hack things
Richard Davis James makes music to cleave your brain in half. His melodies pull toward the chiller side of IDM while his nefarious drums make sure you never forget that face on the cover. James programs drums like virtuoso guitarists shred guitar solos. They never fall into one easily definable pattern, instead rattling incessantly like a swarm of chain guns all firing at different moving targets. Tracks like “4” and “Girl/Boy Song” would be prime chill-out fare if it wasn’t for those drums popping off like firecrackers.
The Richard D. James Album
stays compelling because the tension between these two elements almost never lets up. The songs never sink too far into ambiance but never go full out jungle overload either. Instead, James pulls both elements right into the center of every song, where they do epic battle for your amusement. Children’s voices crash head on into an ever-mutating brew of desk pounding bass hits and tongue pops on “To Cure A Weakling Child”. “Girl/Boy Song” sports majestic strings that beg for freedom from the percussion’s cruel master.
Aside from the opening 4 tracks, the rest of the album functions more as a collection of singles. There is only a light attempt at ebb and flow and most of the back half could be sequenced in any order. All the songs here are good but the roughly sequenced back half does mean a full cover-to-cover listen can get exhausting. And that isn’t even counting the bonus tracks, including the infamous “Milkman”, which most people seem to think is funny, I think its terrifying.
As a figurehead for the IDM scene, Richard James stands alone. Not only has he produced some of the most indisputably important music in IDM but also he has vaulted singles into the UK top 40, even a top 20, without compromising his style. His creepy leer has become his trademark, recognized in unnerving music videos and album covers. The Richard D. James Album
remains his most accessible collection of work. It’s a brisk run through of some of the best music drum and bass has to offer. Just don’t linger too long on that album cover, it’ll give you nightmares.