Sabrina & Eric Review the Music Nerd Canon | #1: Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92

By Sabrina Li and Eric Harkleroad

You know the type. The kind of guy who watches Anthony Fantano, follows music shitposting accounts on IG, goes on /mu/. He’s a self-proclaimed music nerd.

“Fantano-core,” “/mu/core,” whatever you want to call it, there’s definitely a music nerd canon of albums this guy likes, and we think it’d be fun to review our way through it, one by one.

We’ll start with this:

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Background
Richard D. James, known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is a British electronic musician known for his pioneering fusions of ambient music and breakbeat techno into a genre called IDM — intelligent dance music. His 1992 debut album Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is a compilation of tracks he crafted on homemade synthesizers from 1985 to 1992, meaning he began working on the LP at around 14 years old.

The record is widely revered by critics and Fantano fans alike as a masterpiece of electronic music, and it went on to influence the likes of Daft Punk, among others.

Sabrina’s take

So he's like the Sophie of music I don't listen to.

I've been into like, electronic, ambient stuff recently so I liked it, but I don't know why it has millions of plays. Like that's what gets me.

It’s like there's a club and you can hear it in the distance and you're walking towards it, but it's like, you're consistently at the same distance as you were, like, you're never getting closer.

I guess it's sort of the thing where like, in English class, we’ll read stuff from what, the 1700s or something. And I'm like, I cannot believe that was the moral of the story. Like they really thought they did something with them. But it's like, no, they did. Because at that point, that idea wasn't yet cliche or overused. That's how I should be looking at this album. Because I'm like, ‘yeah, this is why I like electronic, this is fine.’ But for the time, it was probably more like, ‘huh, did you- did you hear that?’

It's definitely one of those albums that you step into, you know, like, if you want to go somewhere else for the day, but you don't have vacation money, you can just play this album and you'll be gone.

I wouldn't play this every day. But I will play this some days.

Rating: 1000.00110011001100110011/1010 [8.2/10]

Eric’s take

In preparing for this review, I relistened to this album for the first time since 2017, most likely.

Do not be fooled by the album title into thinking this will sound like any other ambient music you’ve heard. It’s totally different.

Snappy, danceable drum machines provide a skeleton to hold up simple, looping synths as they trudge on for lengths. Washes of soft unintelligible speech drift over tracks on occasion to break up the monotony.

It’s the perfect kind of background music. The melodies are mellow and repetitive, easy to zone out to, while the beats are energetic and steady. The listener is kept at a constant, almost robotic pace throughout.

And although the LP appears to assemble itself before your very ears as fine layers of bleeps and bloops build up, its pulsing energy loses steam after its centerpiece eighth track, “We Are the Music Makers.” The remaining 30 minutes feel more hollow and less engaging. They lack the juice and flavor their previous tracks have.

Or maybe you’re just not meant to listen so closely.

Rating: 111.11001100110011001101/1010 [7.8/10]

Y’all know this is just our opinion, right?