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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Aphex Twin - DrukQs (2001)

Music is really important to me, almost to the point where I think I attach a kind of sacred value to it. When music is cheapened, it bothers me. When a song I love becomes the soundtrack to an advert, it bothers me. ‘Which Will’ by Nick Drake is an astonishingly beautiful piece of music, with its meaning punctuated by the knowledge of Drake’s death shortly after recording it, has for me been tainted by its use on a mobile phone commercial.

On 24th July, 2009, I got married. We were married in Cumbria, at a lovely hotel in Penrith, and one of the main things I was in charge of was the music. We had a covers band play at the night reception, they specialised in indie, rock and 60s covers. The keyboard player from the band DJed under the strict stipulation there would be no Abba, no Grease Medley, and no Robbie Williams. But my main concern was with the music for the actual ceremony, and the bit afterwards where we signed the register. This was difficult: I needed music that captured the gravity of the day; music that my wife and I could both agree upon; and most importantly of all, I didn’t want to be music from an advert. This last point might sound a bit strange, but it really was a concern of mine. I’d attended a wedding the year before that had used the music from a Lloyds TSB advert. The piece of music, taken in isolation is really nice piece of music, but as I was watching the wedding party make their way down the aisle, all I could think about was the Lloyds TSB advert.

I must have listened to hundreds of pieces of music to try and capture the perfect feeling, but I always had the niggling thought in the back of my mind: what if some mobile phone company uses it and ruins it for me? So, I decided to compose a short piece of music just so there would be no chance in the world that the music could be ruined. For two days I isolated myself and wrote a piece of music that I felt would be perfect for our wedding. I am currently in negations with Vodaphone to have the music help sell phones... I kid.

Further to the actual wedding music, we had to choose songs for signing the register, and exiting. We had Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’ and Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’ for exit music. For signing the register we had Rachmaninov’s ‘Theme on Paganini’, Yann Tiersen’s ‘Comptine d'un autre été: L'après midi’ and Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’ – all stunning pieces of piano music. Shortly after the wedding, both ‘Come Together’ and ‘Avril 14th’ featured in adverts, but at least the music for the ceremony can never be tainted.

Those of you have only a rudimentary familiarity of Aphex Twin’s music, perhaps through tracks like ‘Windowlicker’ and ‘Come to Daddy’, might think it unsuitable for capturing the mood of a wedding ceremony. This is incorrect. Though many Aphex Twin tracks hit you with a dizzying sonic assault of twisted beats and discordant beeps, ‘Avril 14th’ is the perfect piece of music, with its distinctive lyrical melody in a wistful minor key. The music is gentle and warm, and it feels more like a lullaby than avant-garde electronica.

‘Avril 14th’ features on Aphex Twin’s 2001 album DrukQs, which for me is Aphex Twin's finest album. It’s an album of extremes, from quiet atmospheric soundscapes, to intense frenetically detailed electronica. Album opener ‘Jynweythek’, with its Japanese-inspired sound could easily fit into the a calmer moment in a kung-fu movie, while the track that follows, ‘Vordhosbn’, is a brutal barrage of complex beats that twist and turn at a horrifying speed. The coupling of these two tracks give the listener a perfect hint at what is set to come, and really shows Richard James at his best. ‘Bbydhyonchord’ is perfect at the end of a night out to sit back and chill-out to, but if you leave you leave the CD playing the mood turns again into the Goldie-inspired dark drum and bass sounds of ‘Cock-Ver10’, and the scream of “come on you cunts, let's have some Aphex acid” is enough to shake anyone out of a post-night out stupor. And then the above mention ‘Avril 14th’ comes in to give us some respite. Track 14, ‘Hy a Scullyas Lyf a Dhagrow’ takes us back to the floating Japanese rhythms of ‘Jynweythek’. The closing track of the first disc ‘Kesson Dalef’ is another piano piece, but with a much darker and uneasy feel than ‘Avril 14th’. On its own, the first disc amounts to an amazing collection of music, but this is a double album. And although the first disc feels more like a complete album than the second, tracks like the organ piece ‘Qkthr’, and the melodic ‘Petiatil Cx Htdui’, make it a most-own album for anyone who loves music.

You’re not going to find my copy of Aphex Twin’s DrukQs on the shelves of a charity shop any time soon: this album would without doubt be one of my Desert Island Discs.


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