Selected Ambient Works 85-92 album cover
Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Aphex Twin

1985 - 1992

The most famous album in Warp’s history isn’t on Warp—it’s on R&S, and was released in 1992, a year before Richard D. James joined Warp. As has been pointed out many times, this album isn’t much like other music that gets called ambient. There are rhythms on almost every track and the music doesn’t really recede the way “traditional” ambient does. (Selected Ambient Works Volume II does that.) “Heliosphan,” for instance, is a kind of uptempo breakbeat track, without the breakbeat. What SAW 85-92 laid the groundwork for was the lo-fi-chill-beats-to-study-to nation, where structures and sounds are all pleasant and things are neither upsetting nor boring. You find your brain being lightly palpated when this is on. There is a relation of form to boutique hotel soundtracks and trip-hop and the fringes of acid, all of which is more demonstrative than anything on this album. Apparently James played this at the end of gigs while his friends were coming down, and it would have been perfect for that. It’s just one or two clicks east of anonymous, like a really good restaurant.

Sasha Frere-Jones

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