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Skittering Beats And Strings And Things

Aphex Twin
Richard D James Album

Mr. Richard D. James is one of those artists that throws a curveball to his listening audience with nearly every release. After releasing the amazingly minimal 2CD set Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 and the clanging, but melodic I Care Because You Do, he's back again with another new sound on the Richard D James Album. This time around, he's sliding in a bit of the drill and bass to his usual quirky sound, and he yet again pulls things off without very much of a hitch.

For the second time in two albums, he's also put his own mug on the cover of the disc, this time using a surprisingly sinister looking photograph of his face with a devious smile. The reason I saw surprisingly sinister is because with the exception of a couple tracks on this disc, it's a very playful affair. If anything, it feels more like he's reverting a bit to childhood, whether he's singing (yes, singing) goofy sophomoric lyrics ("Milkman") or creating entire songs out of slide whistles and knick-knack noises ("Logon Rock Witch).

The album starts out in a flourish with a snare rush and the strings of the simply titled "4." It's a beautiful little track in which the frantic drums threaten to take over the entire track several times before things drop off into a sample of his Mum calling out his name and him answering. One of the only harsher sounding tracks on the album is the third track "Peek 82454201." The track moves along with a squirty-sounding beat and plenty of odd little noises, and screeches out several times just to make a point. After the light "Fingerbib" and harsher "Corn Mouth," he goes back into the crazy beats with "To Cure A Weakling Child." Starting out with only a chopped-up vocal sample of what sounds like a kid (although it's probably just James fooling around with his own voice), he introduces more of those crazy, skittering rhythms that manage to juxtapose so nicely with the light sounds.

He then goes minimal again with the ambient (but quite plucky) "Goon Gumpos" before launching into the first single from the disc (and quite possibly the album highlight) of "Girl/Boy" song. Again, he brings back the crazy snare beat and plucked stringed instruments, and along with some chime sounds, it sounds like the perfect classical/electronic composition. Despite the frenetic beats, it has an almost lulling effect and is an instant classic. The album closes out with the two aforementioned tracks ("Milkman" and "Logon Rock Witch"), as well as some remixes of the "Girl/Boy" track (which of course, sound nothing like the original) and another very strange vocal track called "Beetles" in which Richard D. James sings about being plagued by bugs over a completely haphazard arrangement.

Overall, it's another great album from Aphex Twin and shows that he can change up his style with nearly every release, but still manage to create interesting, solid compositions that definitely have his unique signature on them. The only beef I have with this album is that it only runs about 45 minutes long. Considering he supposedly had 200 songs from which he selected this release, I wouldn't have minded hearing more. Maybe I'm just whining, though.

Rating: 7.75