This is the more well known release featuring Digeridoo, and marks Richard’s first outing on the legendary Belgian label, R&S.
Despite the ragged corners of the lo-fi production, there’s no denying the track is an absolute monster. The malevolent wailing acid line (more likely generated by a 303 than a tortured sample of an actual didgeridoo) sounds like a siren of pure evil calling to awaken demons everywhere. The frenetic tempo is at the upper 150bpm mark, pitching it between hard techno and proto-breakbeat, though given the full-on intensity, the track would dominate any set it’s mixed into.
All the rest of the EP is on the harsh industrial side. Flap Head is a relentless industrial pounder, all metallic clangs and lurching cavernous bass squelching. Phloam raises the manic stakes even higher, with a rapidfire beat that mimics the sound of the double kick drum pedal used in heavy metal. Coupled with the obnoxious detuned synths and clouds of distortion, the overall effect is fairly migraine-inducing. The release is rounded out by an extended version of Isopropophlex, previously seen on AB1, so no respite from heaviness to be found here.
Maybe it’s a sign of how James’ production and mastering skills grew exponentially in the early part of the 90s, as what stands out about these early releases is not just the intensity but the oppressive weight brought by the murky lo-fi atmosphere.
Compared to the extremities of speed and intensity that electronic music would reach a few short years later – with jungle mutating into drum’n’bass and then gabba and breakcore – the menacing vibe seems naively cartoonish now. Yet the Digeridoo EP was a minor landmark release of its time, beginning to put Aphex Twin on the map, and no one can deny it for sheer energy and grit.
My appetite for harsh music has decreased with age, so until the next time I find myself at an illegal rave on a disused brownfield site, I probably won’t find myself listening to this collection of tracks too often these days.
Top track: Digeridoo
2/5 – One for the fans