Review Summary: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 explores the unknown depths of electronic music with a diversity of styles that coalesce effectively.
Whenever I listen to Aphex Twin, I find it hard to believe that someone could create such a vast number of sounds using a computer. And yet, every time I listen to Selected Ambient Works 85-92, I am blown away. This album shows off the exceptional ability of Richard D. James to create fascinating electronic beats and textures. It also establishes Aphex Twin as one of the most prestigious electronic artists of all time.
The attention to detail on Selected Ambient Works is unmatched with its addictive beats and expansive composition. Most of the tracks are completely independent from one another but manage to work off of each other in a way that is subtle and fluid. Each track brings forth a different style. Some songs utilize glitchy production, while others take advantage of sampling and complex musical atmospheres. Moreover, these songs are best enjoyed in a quiet setting that allows for an undisturbed listen.
This is easily one of the most impressive electronic albums of all time with a unique direction that is constantly focused. "Xtal" is an easy way into the world of Aphex Twin, with an accessible beat that gives rise to some very fitting vocal sampling. The track continues to develop throughout its duration with a powerful and hypnotic drum section accompanied by a spiritual ambience. "Tha" delves into a much deeper and adventurous trench of sound, using darker musical patterns and very hazy vocals. The nine-minute track feels like a journey down the rabbit hole with its eerie layers that feel awfully claustrophobic.
"Ageispolis" crafts a more familiar style with its relatively straightforward anatomy. However, the song sets itself apart from the other songs with its pulsating bass that give the track a striking edge. In addition, "i" stands out as the most overtly ambient track that discards a reliance on beats to display its character. It is very short and very sweet. "Green Calx" takes advantage of intrepid experimentation to construct an ambitious collection of noises. The track's assorted sound effects give it a mechanical feel, but one that is beyond control. The high point of the album, "Heliosphan" musters a mesmerizing synthesizer that embarks on a winding road of sheer electronic bliss. The density of the track is superlative, as an assembly of percussion and keyboards collaborate to create an intriguing and memorable song.
"We Are the Music Makers" is an abstract look at what Aphex Twin can do with some breathing room. While the song's melody is repetitive and restrained, the emotion buried beneath the song's layers is quite evident. "Schottkey 7th Path" returns to the darkness of the second track with sprawling beats and mysterious background textures. The track feels spontaneous as a whole, and every new sound that germinates throughout the course of the song is welcomed with open arms. The peak of the track comes about three minutes in when the percussion is briefly abandoned to zero in on the unexplained tone of the song's electronics.
The track "Hedphelym" is sharper and more abrasive with a cumbersome beat that carries plenty of weight. "Actium", the album closer, has a nice progression that develops on its own terms. The tune is very calm and very steady, never really bringing the listener below its surface like some of the other songs. Nonetheless, the song has a splendid bass and a variety of electronics that join the pieces of the song together smoothly.
From beginning to end, it is clear that Aphex Twin has produced something special. The scope of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is vast, making it appealing to almost any electronic music fanatic. His eclectic use of samples, keyboards, and drum machines are used to create admirable intelligent dance music. Therefore, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is simply a brilliant work of art.
Schottkey 7th Path
We Are the Music Makers