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A native of Cornwall, Richard James is obsessed with the mechanics of music making: As a kid, he took apart and reassembled the living room piano. Under the names Aphex Twin, Polygon Window, AFX and other aliases too numerous to mention, he showed that he could make entire tracks with the sounds produced by tapping on a Coke can. Like the indie rockers of yore, he revels in his marginality because of the creative freedom it gives him. None of his recordings have captured the competing impulses to lull you to sleep and blast out your eardrums as well as Richard D. James
, his third and best album. As the title indicates, James has turned inward for inspiration, painting aural pictures of real and imagined scenes from his west country childhood. "Goongumpas" is a fanciful, playful tune that wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
. As his adventures with the family upright indicate, James was a bit of a devil even as a child. "Beetles" is the sound of a boy frying bugs on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass and "To Cure A Weakling Child" shows flashes of the sort of sadism found only on primary school playgrounds. If you still doubt that young Richard developed early on, the romantic Nino Rota-style strings on "Girl/Boy Song" are just made for passionate seductions, and the tune appears in three mixes, each one hot and hornier than the one before. The raucous undercurrents of even his calmest tunes and the sources of many of his most common sounds are what link James to the rock tradition. With Richard D. James
, the artist solidifies his position as an electronic music mastermind who has earned a spot beside such well-respected innovators--whether or not he's destined for stardom. --Jim Derogatis