Review Summary: ...I wish I cared and I wonder if you did.
Out of all the wondrous things that have been cooked in Richard D. James’ uncompromising magic IDM oven over the past few decades, the Ventolin compilation might just be the most frustratingly undercooked release he has offered. Let’s consider this for a moment : each track is a remix of « Ventolin », the infamous ear-piercing joint who would later be included on …I Care Because You Do
. There is a catch, however in that, the other five tracks don’t even sound close to the original either by being meditative or just by being a geniunely good beat to shake your booty to. Remix compilations are a tough thing to pull off because the record can easily become redundant as even if there is a high quality to each reinterpretation, there is still a clear resemblance throughout because well, it’s the same track. However, here it’s clearly not the case. Whether or not the problem was circumvented in a stupid or brilliant manner is debatable, but it still highlights a certain uncertainty about the material here : a gimmick that serves no purpose to the overall listening experience.
Being unconventional and not caring one bit about presentation and listing norms is part of the charm Aphex Twin always had. Nevertheless, James does usually back up his shenanigans with well thought out tracks to boot. This release is no exception. « Ventolin » is still as much of a monster of a track as it was twenty years ago with its harsh high pitched strident sounds and punishing beat that still manage to create a lurking sense of fear. As it was named after the side effects of Salbutamol, a drug used to treat asthma that can cause tinnitus a.k.a. unpleasant sounds in your ears, both the concept and the songwriting are flawlessly executed for the eponymous track. The quality dips quite significantly for most of the other tracks however. Reflecting upon them, there is this distinct feeling that those beats were too good to be kept on a computer, but not inspiring enough to construct a well thought out track around them. It should also be noted that none of these tracks are anything close to harsh which feels like a wasted opportunity for Aphex Twin to plug in more killing tones and therefore make the whole album feel more cohesive, tone wise, but also give it a true identity. The only exception here is the fantastic closing track whose meditative beat and synth saves the so called remixes from being forgettable by actually feeling like a song rather than an idea. Although some of the other tracks are quite upbeat or evocative, it’s only at the very end of the record that a true antithesis of the title track is heard, fully fleshed out.
Truth be told, it would be a lie to say that this album is pure garbage level or pure Garbage level. Ventolin is just another collection of Aphex Twin tracks, no more no less. Somehow this record is both one that would be perfect for newcomers (in order to dip into the sound without being spoiled) and for the old veterans who just want more songs from the U.K. artist. Nevertheless, there is something beneath this record that points toward the mind boggling duality of …I Care Because You Do
, but here it’s just a faint smell of what was to come.