Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s Two Albums To Listen To.
Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – Aphex Twin
One of the few indisputable classics of electronica, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, is the debut album of Aphex Twin, one of the many pseudonyms of Anglo-Irish musician Richard D. James. This LP is his third formal release, with his previous two LPs under the name AFX.
At the time of the album’s release, James was homeless, living in an unoccupied bank in south London. James had to build his own recording equipment and lacked the money to publish more copies of his tape even when it did become popular. Although each part of this record has something slightly off, it feels strangely familiar.
This album in particular stands out because of its genre-defining minimalist representation, taking cues from club beats and acid-house production. On top of the simplistic beats, Aphex Twin layers atmospheric sounds and melodies, each beautiful in their own right.
Once mixed together on Aphex Twin’s custom homemade equipment, these two key elements combine to create a sparse and eerie album that kicked off the modern electronic movement.
Tracks to listen to: “Xtal,” “Aegispolis,” “Delphium”
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83
Compared to Aphex Twin, M83 opts for a fuller, more expansive sound with live instrumentation rather than sampling. M83 harnesses a variety of sounds and emotions to make each song its own statement rather than parts of one overall experience.
Band leader Anthony Gonzalez is extremely unapologetic, making his artistic visions distinct amongst other modern musicians. Whether he’s writing about a child who imagines the world population turning into frogs or examining the in-depth functions of his brain, Gonzalez’s thoughts are extensive yet relatable.
These epics Gonzales constructs contain countless goosebump moments, from Zola Jesus’ vocals in “Intro” to the keyboards on “Steve McQueen.” Some might argue that the abundance of so many individual peaks in the project might hide any depth in the tracks, but a deeper listen reveals a close examination of human thought.
Tracks to listen to: “Intro,” “Midnight City,” “Wait”