From the Aphex Twin Archives—15 Sekonda

 

Two years ago, Aphex Twin released a mammoth collection of unreleased material on Soundcloud as the uploader user48736353001. With Syro having dropped a few months earlier, I was excited for more Richard D. James music, but at the time I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tracks. At around 270 tracks, totaling 20 hours of music—a running time longer than his official discography—the collection was both intimidating and exhausting to listen to. My initial impression was that this was an assortment of B-sides that, while interesting, never amounted to anything more than curious demos and sketches. Still, I admired the breadth of the release and the way it highlighted Aphex Twin’s prodigious work rate.

I, of course, never made it through all of the music and these days I find myself revisiting the collection that is user48736353001. This is mostly due to Nina Kraviz having dug deep into Aphex Twin’s Soundcloud dump to revive two tracks and give them a new context. The first song is “P-String,” which Kraviz included on her compilation, When I Was 14, for her label Trip. The second song is “Fork Rave” which ended her excellent Fabric 91 mix. These two songs, freed from the clutter of the massive Soundcloud archive, were given a new life. They didn’t sound like demos, they sounded new and fresh—at least in the sense that they sounded like finished early Aphex Twin songs, with his classic reverb touch and everything. I’m pretty sure I never even had the chance to hear these songs in my original attempt to cover the 270+ collection.

So I decided to give the massive archive a second listen. One day at work, starting with Fork Rave, I let YouTube’s algorithm guide me from song to song until I arrived at 15 Sekonda. Leave it to Aphex Twin to bury such a gem within a massive data dump. The song is a delicate affair with piano keys and strings clashing with one another, it’s minimal repetitions evoking Steve Reich. It’s Aphex Twin at his most dramatic and epic. I now find myself combing through the rest of user48736353001’s material, and compiling my personal favorites from the glut. It’s a tedious process, most songs being just curious scraps that get lost in Aphex Twin’s already enormous body of work. But every once in a while, I find a song that rises above the rest, fully displaying Aphex Twin’s creativity and craftsmanship, and that can stand with his best work— making the experience that much more rewarding.

 

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