Richard David James, known to most as the man behind the mind-boggling productions of Aphex Twin, is arguably one of the most well-respected and talented figures in the history of electronic music and (depending on whom you ask) music altogether. The prolific UK-based musician has released more tracks in his twenty-plus year career than most current living musicians of any genre, and while doing so he has kept himself from compromising his own musical integrity–a philosophy driven by consistent experimentation and pure, untainted creativity. James has released under a myriad of aliases including (but not limited to) Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Caustic Window, DJ Smojphace, GAK, Martin Tressider, Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Prichard D. Jams, Q-Chastic, Tahnaiya Russell, The Dice Man, but the focus of this article is James' productions concocted under the simplified moniker of AFX.
Between 1991 and 1995 James released a series of EP's and LP's as AFX. Analogue Bubblebath was the first of this series, defining the beginnings of some of James' less well-known but equally enticing early 1990s works. A total of five bodies of work were produced under the Analogue Bubblebath titles, chronologically numbered as they were released over time.
Analogue Bubblebath (1991)
The first Analogue Bubblebath EP was originally released in 1991 as The Aphex Twin on 12" vinyl (credited as the first official Aphex Twin release, with Selected Ambient Works 85-92 coming in 1992), but later re-released as AFX in 1993 as an EP on vinyl–in both instances courtesy of Mighty Force records. Analogue Bubblebath was released yet again in 1994 for the first time on CD via TVT Records, but with the same track list as the original Mighty Force releases. The EP contains four tracks, exemplary of the influence of acidic tones and post-African rhythmic frameworks of early techno. The EP's title track boasts the mix of glitchy textures and ambient melodic work that has become synonymous with the euphoria of Aphex Twin, accompanied on the EP by the slightly more aggressive "Isopropophlex" and two closing tracks.
Analogue Bubblebath Tracklist:
- "Analogue Bubblebath"
- "Entrance to Exit"
- "AFX 2"
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Analog Bubblebath Vol. 2 (1991)
Dropping the "ue" from Analogue, Analog Bubblebath Vol. 2 was also released in 1991, but this time coming from now-defunct Rabbit City Records. The lead-off track from Vol. 2 titled "Aboriginal Mix" might sound familiar to some listeners, as it was re-released as a 12" single under Aphex Twin with the alternative title of "Digeridoo"–a track that has gone on to be one of James' most famous works and is often referenced as a pivotal reference point in early 90s, post-acid techno. The following two "Untitled" tracks on the EP follow similar format to those on the first Bubblebath release–containing high-tempo acidic glitch works that straddle drum and bass and straight acid.
Analog Bubblebath Vol. 2 Tracklist:
- "Aboriginal Mix (Digeridoo)"
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Analogue Bubblebath 3 (1993)
The third installment of the Bubblebath series came in 1993, released on James' own Rephlex Records. The longest of all of the five releases, Analogue Bubblebath 3 was originally released only on CD but a reissue came from Rephlex in 2002 as a double-LP vinyl as well as a 13-track high quality WAV package in 2009. With the largest number of tracks comes the greatest variance in the AFX sound here–the uplifting ambient melodies of "(Cat 00897-Aa1)" are contrasted sharply by highly experimental works such as "Afx 6-B" and ".0180871L." The EP's opening track, ".215061," sees a mix of the more melodic side of AFX with the more aggressive tones of his typically higher tempo works–making for a good summary of Analogue Bubblebath 3's overall sound.
Analogue Bubblebath 3 Tracklist:
- "(Cat 00897-Aa1)"
- "(Cat 00897-A1)"
- "Afx 6-B"
- "(Cd Only Track #1)"
- "(Cd Only Track #2)"
- "(Cat 00897-A2)"
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Analogue Bubblebath 4 (1994)
Analogue Bubblebath 4 came again via Rephlex in 1994, and is comprised of five tracks of heavily organic samples and animal sounds. Though only the second track, "Cuckoo," boasts an official title, the opening "Untitled" track sounds as though James sampled a human/elephant cross breed while enduring what was likely a horrifically vulnerable moment. The aforementioned "Cuckoo" is the centrepiece here–jungle sounds give way to Zelda-like patterns of staccato melodies that carry the six-minute work through the sort of exploration one might encounter in video games of the early 90s.
Analogue Bubblebath 4 Tracklist:
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Analogue Bubblebath 5 (1995)
According to the album's online Discogs liner notes, "in January 2005 Rephlex mailed out black vinyl/binder editions of "Analord 10". Due to problems at the manufacturing/mail out stage, approximately 20 buyers did not receive their package. Rephlex mailed out a second batch in June 2005 to those who had not received their order. This second batch included a free copy of "Analogue Bubblebath 5". This distribution of "Analogue Bubblebath 5" was unannounced. "
Although never officially released, Analogue Bubblebath 5 contains some of the best tracks from the Bubblebath series. The nine-minute opening "Untitled" track of the album is one of James' most melodically and texturally pleasant tracks, harmonic pads are perfectly complemented by the track's main melodic theme. The combination of creativity and structure from James under the AFX moniker are at its best here–each track on Analogue Bubblebath 5 could be pinned as the founding ideals of many of the popularized electronic genres today.
Analogue Bubblebath 5 Tracklist:
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Richard D. James is credited with the development of IDM, 'intelligent dance music,' but the experienced listener could easily attribute James as the father of Drum & Bass, dubstep, electro house and other limited and over saturated genres that have gained popularity over the last decade. While sifting through all of his releases may seem daunting, each of his tracks holds unique and intellectually stimulating ideas–it is 'brain' music first, 'dance' music second. With his AFX releases, James reminds us that pigeonholing ideas and limiting creativity can only push music so far–through him we are reminded that intellectual music is about taking risks, and that avant-garde experimentation doesn't have to sound like nails on a chalkboard.