Richard D James’ debut release as Aphex Twin. And it’s the eponymous first cut which defines the essence of his sound in the early 90s – that ineffably melancholy sense of melody paired with relentless propulsive rhythm. Like a cherished landmark appearing on the horizon, ‘Analogue Bubblebath’, has been bringing respite for knackered ravers for 30 years. The soothing drone, the pulsing ‘bloop’ that anchors everything like a lighthouse beacon flashing in the darkness and then the iconic pads that wash over everything like a sunrise. Despite the rudimentary production, it’s a timeless classic, to be heard for years to come.
Isopropophlex is a harsh techno stomper, and a taster of the extreme lengths Aphex’s music would later reach. Juxtaposed with the menacing atmosphere of the track, is a palpable sense of mischief, in creating a DJ tool that can transform whatever track it’s mixed with into an acid techno nightmare. Despite its unrelenting harshness, it’s surprisingly listenable; the production has aged remarkably well, and while the beat does kick like a mule, there’s a ghostly ambience filling out the mix, elevating the track to more than just dancefloor fodder.
En Trance to Exit is notable only as a curiosity, being James’ sole collaboration with fellow Cornishman and cosmic musical visionary, Tom Middleton. It’s a shame the pair only worked together once, and at such an early stage of their careers, as the track is just a bit of 90s rave knockabout fun and hardly representative of either’s best work.
AFX2 is another robust industrial techno workout and not much to write home about, but still contains all the hallmarks of James’ early style; off kilter percussive patterns, customised analogue synths and an eerie sense of malevolence.
This EP’s value lies mainly in the fact it’s Aphex’s debut release, and is absolutely carried by the title track, which is a classic. Isopropophlex would still cause dancefloor carnage today, but the other two cuts are mainly interesting as historical curiosities.
2 / 5 – One for the fans