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51
4.5 out of 5 stars
Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Format: Audio CDChange
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2004
I only recently got into Aphex Twin; having heard Selected Ambient Works Volume 1 and deciding that it was one of the best albums I had ever heard, I went out and got this, 26 Mixes for Cash and the Come to Daddy mini-album. What I particularly like about Richard James' work is the variation. The music he produces differs greatly from album to album but I have not been disappointed by any tracks I have listened to. What struck about this album is that is far less accessible that others I have listened to, but as such far more rewarding. Two hours of ambient music is a lot, but if you really listen the changes in the music are very subtle and clever indeed. The first CD is slightly reminiscent of SAW vol.1 but with more continuity between the tracks and, if its possible, a more ambient chilled out synth feel to it. CD 2 encompasses some industrial sounds and haunting vibes of the sort you would not want to listen to on your own in a wood at night. Actually quite scary even in the daytime. If you really take time over this album, its subtleties and quality will become clear, and this is far more rewarding than those wear the strength of tracks are immediately obvious. In short, if you really like your music, and like what you have heard from Aphex Twin then this is the album for you - it is not a good entry point to his music for someone who has never experienced it before. Try SAW vol. 1 for this; I did and I was hooked! Warp is a quality label - check out their other stuff for great beats from Prefuse 73, Autreche, Squarepusher, Nightmares on Wax and Anti-Pop Consortium to name just a few.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2005
Well, I am about to buy Aphex Twins SAW2, for the second time. I bought it first pretty much when it had just come out, on audio tape. A friend and I sat down to listen to it on his dads hifi in an acoustically treated room, and we were amazed, we just sat there chilling out for the whole album, letting our minds wander with the highs and lows of the moods it gives you. Not once did we think of stopping it, in fact we barely spoke for the whole of it. Obviously we had to turn the tape over, but my friend was sitting next to the deck so it didnt intrude too much on our ascension.
However before buying this understand it isnt ambient music in the way you normally imagine (think Orbs early stuff) but is a state of mind instead. It isnt like tranquility music featuring whales and dolphins etc, its mostly electro stuff, although im sure some of it is sounds from objects mucked around. But it doesnt have beat patterns or anything like that. Its designed to allow your mind to ponder, and is especially good at inducing alternative dreams (nice, odd, or in one case terrifying!)if listened to late at night.
On the whole, you cannot go wrong if you have an open mind toward sound, not just towards music.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is without doubt one of the most interesting albums I have ever heard. There is something going on here, what it is? I am not sure but it is a very spooky and eeire trip. There is a conjuring of sounds that seem to be beaming in from other planets and the inner space within our minds. There is the sound of foreboding, isolation and darkness. That is why I have given this record 3 stars, I find this music sends me to a place that I am not sure I feel happy in. It can leave you cold.

Music like this should be applauded as I doubt there is another record like this in existence. Absoloutly original and unique and almost terrifying. It will haunt parts of your mind and soul.

I have always been a huge fan of Richard James. I think his music is genius but I have always approached this album with something of uncertainty and a mild dislike. I have attempted on many occasions to try and understand this album, but mostly I come away confused and depressed at the experience.

2 years on from my 3 star review (and about 8 years since I bought it) I have to give this a 5 Gold Stars. One of the reasons is something will keep drawing you back, its like when the record ends a part of your brain says '' Your work here is not done my friend and I know you will come back to have another go''. There is something other-worldly about it. It might sound odd but there is almost a kind of magic to this album. Richard James said this album sounds like standing in a power station tripping on LSD, I think that pretty much sums it up. Though you might as well add UFOs, paganisim, the birth of the universe, travelling to outerspace, life after death experiences and cold winter sunsets into the equation too.

This music has only one limitation and that is your imagination.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2002
Two discs isn't enough for me. Although I suppose it'll have to do.
Some parts (CD1 track 3, CD2 track 8) are so beautiful they nearly bring me to tears every time, other parts are horrifyingly scary (CD1 track 5 [UK edition only], CD2 track 4), but the majority are sinister and kind of quirky (CD1 track 2, CD2 track 6). No track titles could do these pieces of music justice, and so none are given.
This isn't music to sit and bop your head to or hum along with...instead, sit back, put it on in the background, listen through headphones in the dark, take it on your discman for a walk in the country on a gloomy December morning. The choice is yours...and when you get it right, you'll realise how fantastic this album is.
One of my alltime favourites.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2003
Genius! - although not exactly what many were expecting from lunatic genius Aphex Twin (aka Richard James) following a period of apparently stable niche carving during which he released 'Analogue Bubblebath', 'Didgeridoo' and the almost commercial 'Polygon Window'.
Most sections of the press seemed to think he was either playing an elaborate prank or had simply lost the plot completely when this was released. There is absolutely no rhythm on this album whatsoever. A pretty bold move for a supposedly 'techno' artist! Released at the time that The Orb were beginning to break big in the UK, this is an entirely different flavour of ambient altogether. No dub influences here, no commericality on show.
What you get instead is twenty four tracks (weighing in at around two and a half hours' worth in total) of absolute, mind-bending ambient noise. The tracks here (with the exception of the jangly, poppy 'Blue Calx' which seems oddly incongruous) can be loosely dropped into three categories: Industrial Weirdness, Beautiful Synths and Spooky Eeerie Noise.
This album should not be approached track by track - it has to be listened to all the way through to be completely appreciated. Some of the stuff on show here can barely be described as music. It appears to be little more than samples of machinery buggered around with until some sort of tones emerge from them and then arranged loosely into a 'track'. Seriously, you can almost imagine Richard James sitting in his battered windswept castle feeding all these bizarre noises into a giant Cray supercomputer on punch cards!
My personal favourites would have to be the eerie tracks. These would be perfectly at home in a John Carpenter movie, such is the unease which they create in the listener.
At times, the album is reminiscent of 'Absinthe' by fellow loon John Zorn's 'Naked City' collective. Another reference point would be 'Isolationism' - a collection of vast, empty soundscapes by various left-field electronica artists. If you love this album (its one of those you'll either love or hate) check out these other albums for another taste of REAL ambient music.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2005
There is little I can say about this album that has not been said before, so I thought I would describe each track individually as well as how they made me feel whenever appropriate, in an attempt to get the feel of the album across.
Disc 1
1. Snippets of undecipherable speech bubble over Richard's mountain range of synth. A good, interesting start to the album, setting the tone with relaxing, mysterious haunting melodies which build, then thin out over the course of the track.
2. Mysterious, simple melody which sounds to me like a very relaxed alarm. Shifts in pitch a few times, creates a pretty motionless soundscape. Another three note melody joins it in time, a hint at a beat works its way in as if it's just hanging out on the track because it doesn't have anything better to do. Massive reverb and delay as on most tracks.
3. An absolutely beautiful, ethereal melody is the basis of this track. It sounds like the soundtrack to Christ's ascension, or the death of an angel. It's a track to think back on your life moments before your death to or to look out over the Grand canyon at midnight. A life-enriching track.
4. A sinister distorted synthscape, like being alone in a forest at night.
5. Tribal rhythmic drums with oh so soft synth pads behind it. Eventually what sounds like hugely processed vocal sounds join it, but they sound like synth anyway.
6. A processed softened voice kind of hums the intro to this track, with a synth line accompanying it in a few seconds. A bassline adds a bit of depth momentarily. The voice stops, and the rest of the music carries on for a while before the voice is re-introduced. For some reason it sounds great as it fades back in.
7. A soft intro melody which sounds like background music in a cheap mystery film. Other gentle melodies eventually accompany it. This plods on and on, lulling the listener. The sound gently warps and changes slightly over the course of the track.
8. Gently percussive sounds, sounds like a being in another dimension bouncing a collection of different bouncy balls at midnight, in a desert. Layers of synth fade in and establish a melody.
9. More tribal beats open out onto a fun, deranged melody, like a accordion singing a lullaby to baby accordions whilst the father of the baby accordions sings along to his favourite TV show's theme music very pleasant and light-hearted sounding.
10. Frightening synth that sounds to me like being accidentally locked in a pyramid on another planet at night and slowly realising you're not alone...
11. Plonk plonk synth, like a very very soft glockenspiel. Sounds to me like a huge musical combination to an ancient lock on a cage which is only now being reopened to release Richard d. James' subconscious, at midnight by hundreds of children with Richard's face and the Aphex logo tattooed on their forehead.
12. With dreamy chimes, sped up and processed voices and other sounds which seem to replicate the sensation of being half asleep, so that both the actual world and the dream world have access to your consciousness. A modern day lullaby.
Disk 2
1. To quote another review website, this track opens with 'Percussive effects that sound like single water drops down the deepest well on the planet' then synth comes in which sounds like someone found the well and it was so beautiful they wrote music about it. A constant clicking keeps track of time and beat. Having listened to this track a few times, I now realise it really is quite beautiful, and creates the image of the first, delicate little flower germinating and growing in the wake of a nuclear holocaust.
2. Sounds very calm, with a hum like some kind of laboratory, on the moon, where a scientist is working diligently to create the most perfectly white light in existence.
3. A change of pace. A clear beat, with a lot of noise to which various noises are added. Faster and clearer than anything before preceding it on this record.
4. Sounds like a very, very fast lift taking you to the top of a huge glass spire on an alien world.
5. Uplifting optimistic synthy bubbles. Sounds like a computer singing about how great it is to be a computer. It sounds very much sound like red spheres rolling around.
6. Flutey sounds open up and tom-tom drums join it. Other little snippets of sound join over the course of the track. The flute changes about half way through to a different melody.
7. Nice track. More structure than the rest of the tracks. A solid beat, but still relaxing, still with dancing little melodies. Then a weird sound like a bike chain sped up fades in and out.
8. Smooth soft and very cool. Like floating on a cool lake on a warm summer evening.
9. Echoing inaudible speech booms around you - whispering, mingled with a synthy feedback. The whole thing sounds like exploring a cavernous cathedral built to worship the Aphex Twin logo.
10. An endless loop of radio feedback. Reminds me of the computer game myst, with the static in the blue and red books. Desolate synth waves wash over the static's spiky texture. Very electro and buzzy.
11. Haunting track which is evocative of waking up one morning and finding that no-one else in the house is around, you cant find them anywhere, they have left no note, and although its 1pm its still very dark outside. You try the TV and radio but every channel and station is broadcasting this track; SAW2 CD2 Track 11.
12. A fitting and ethereal end to the album, golden undulating synthy chords. Hard to describe, but it works well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2001
I think its very interesting to read the other reviews as it delineates precisely my global view of this album.Initially, I listened to the tracks from a stereo in the corner of the room and found the music distracting, disjointed and odd. Then I played it through headphones and I immediately understood. This music is a way to amplify your inner world, to tap into different perspectives. Beyond ambience....pure mind. Brilliant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 17 February 2005
Absolutely fantastic album. If you are in anyway into Ambient music this is the one to get. Even my gf who HATES any kind of electronic weird music actually likes some of the stuff on here. Its become my favourite ipod album to listen to at work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2014
Disc 1 is generally relaxing, with a few scary moments (especially Grass and Tree). White Blur contains a few voices (reminding me of the similar use of voices in the second track on SAW I, which in my opinion is the bridge between this collection and Richard's later work, in spite of being produced earlier).

Disc 2 is perhaps more of a challenge, with two tracks that go on far too long IMO - 'Tassels' which sounds like electronic interference and the repetitive penultimate track. However, as there is no option for 4.5 stars, I have to go for 5 after the experience of putting the CD on as a sleeping aid and drifting back into consciousness with the blissful 'Lichen' playing. Also, the final track reminds me a little of Daevid Allen's 'Euterpe Gratitude Piece' (also well worth checking out if 'eerie ambience' is your kind of thing).

The USA version seems to be cheaper than the UK version (Cornish to be precise!) but it has some differences.
The artwork for side 1 still contains the hankie image, a track that is omitted, and the artwork for side 2 contains a blank square which would have been the track 'Stone in Focus' which is also omitted. Two of the images are different on the first CD:

7)Ropes (Curtains in UK edition)
8)Circles (Blur in UK edition)

Many images are different for the second CD, so I've done a full listing:

1)Blue Calx
2)Parallel Stripes
3)Metal Grating (Shiny Metal Rods on UK edition)
4)Windowsill (Grey Stripe on UK edition)
5)Black and white stripes (Z Twig on UK edition)
6)Siding Nails (confusingly Windowsill on UK edition)
7)Corrugated Tubing (Hexagon on UK edition)
8)Lichen
9)Leaves (Spots on UK edition)
10)Tassels
11)Rusty Metal (White Blur 2 on UK edition)
12)Matchsticks

Using the pie charts to work out the imagery for each track is all well and good if there are one set of images for all versions, but that's Aphex for you - always enigmatic. Personally I find the later 'beat style' work harder to get into but still worth persevering with, but this is the perfect CD to listen to around a campfire at 3am in the middle of a forest after a flagon of booze. It will either send you to sleep of scare the bejesus out of you!

In my review of Pink Floyd's 'Ummagumma' I provocatively commented that none of the modern artists produce experimental music of this ilk due to commercialism/marketing, then I thought about Aphex as an exception, until I realised that 1994 is now two decades ago. Tempus fugit!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2001
This is a great album, if not a difficult one. At the first listen all you can think is "What the hell is this", but my advice is to keep listening. do this until it clicks, because once it does, it's well worth it. These two disks are like a movie soundtrack to life. Each track has particular emotions at its core. my personal favourite it track 3 on disc 1. A more emotional song, i believe, is hard to find. those of you who like Aphex Twins work and haven't got this already should check this out. but i warn you, this is unlike anything he has ever done, before or since.
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