Review Summary: I spent way too much money on this... but I'm not sending it back.
I started collecting AFX once I had caught all the Aphex Twins, before I moved on to his other monikers. I eventually grew to (believe I could) understand the differences between Aphex Twin material and AFX, although this understanding was challenged by his work on Hangable Auto Bulb
and his early-2000s remix EPs. I always felt ambient and mental breaks were what best fit into the Aphex Twin catalog; in addition, my favorite RDJ remixes were, without question, those 3 EP releases, which I felt didn't receive enough love on their own due to them being released under the lesser-known AFX moniker.
In 1991, the Analogue Bubblebath
series began. This was where AFX started, before losing nearly all sense of sanity in Hangable Auto Bulb
and regaining it to an almost drowsying extent on the Analord
series. It was back when the differences between Aphex and AFX were easier to grasp. The first 2 EPs in the series had 3 strong experimental techno tracks, which were duplicated on the first two Aphex EPs and resurfaced later on the Aphex Classics
compilation. The rest of the tracks were left behind, deemed not fit to bear the Aphex Twin namesake on account of some lacking je-ne-sais-quoi that made tracks like Analogue Bubblebath , Isopro[po]phlex, and Digeridoo [Aboriginal Mix] stand out. While the latter two tracks on the first Analogue Bubblebath
failed to peak the curiosity of most listeners with neat little sound effects like the bubbles and lasers that echoed throughout AB1 and Iso, The B-sides on AB2
were snubbed likely because they didn't have a simulated didgeridoo, or for that matter, titles. Another problem they faced was not as much a lack of "catchiness," but being only slightly too experimental, unlike the harder but simpler tracks on The Aphex Twin's Digeridoo
and Xylem Tube
EPs, to the point where they sounded too erratic or abrasive to be as accessible to many listeners, but not enough to resemble later Aphex works like, say, Ventolin.
Richard D. James, in his third Analogue Bubblebath,
faced similar issues. Once again, catchiness isn't really an issue here. The tracks, on account of being extremely repetitive, have no challenge getting stuck in your head. What separates these tracks from the Aphex Classics
is, in my humble opinion, a lack of power. Analogue Bubblebath 3
trades in the industrial banging snares and thudding kicks for unbridled distortion, chirpy hi-hats, and synths that either squeak or squawk but rarely do both.
So far, I'm being a bit too critical, given my rating. Just because these tracks aren't industrial strength doesn't mean together they don't make a solid and enjoyable collection. All in all, in spite of its obscurity, this album, at least for me, stands out as one of the best releases of a year whose best albums were just about all hip-hop. Its most obvious and notable feature was its complete lack of packaging artwork or track list, a gimmick never used before in the electronic scene (that I know of) and not used again for another twenty years until Yeezy decided to bite his style a second time since 2010. An obvious rejection of commercialism, one shouldn't be surprised at the fact that it was commercially rejected right back. As a result this album became a true test to see who would still take the time to hear the music. For those looking for something innovative and original, it was worth letting curiosity get the best of them. Alas, I cant easily point out the strengths on this album and expect more than maybe a quarter of you to automatically know what I'm talking about - that is, the possible 25% of you that have both listened to the album fully AND memorized the track "codes" that replace the titles - personally, my favorites were .215061, .000890569, .1993841 and (CAT 00897-AA1), but that's just me.
As for my summary, I ordered this online from somewhere in Japan, and ended up paying $56.00 CAD, which was far lower than anyone else was selling it for at the time, but sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. Then I go and listen to it again.