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4.8 out of 5 stars75
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 7 May 2013
Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is a mixed bag, and it suffers in comparison to Vol 2, but it's still one of my favourite albums. It starts off really strong and then runs out of steam quickly, but it's a great start. Xtal is a masterpiece, and so was the decision to put it at the start of the album. It colours the rest of the record and makes the album seem more coherent than it is. For me though the real highlight is Tha, which I could listen to all day. It's hypnotic and really simple - a pop-pop-pop pulsebeat with distant voices and a mutating bassline - but it's incredibly evocative and still sounds like walking through a neon-lit city at night. I'm sure the first two tracks were very influential on the British electronic music scene thereafter and they would make for a killer 12". Warp Records in particular seemed to transform from a bleepy techno label into something more diverse at around the time this album came out (which, surprisingly, wasn't released on Warp).

Vol 2 was consistently solid all the way through, but Vol 1 gradually winds down as it goes on. Pulsewidth, track three, just about sums it up; great start, descends into noodling, never develops. It reminds me of Black Dog's Bytes, in the sense that each track has one good idea, but the idea tends to just repeat without being developed. Tha is like that, but it has a special magic that works; there's just enough happening for it to not be boring. Same with Delphium, which sets up a groove and sails with it. Or Schottkey 7th Path, which goes one better by setting up a *mood*.

Yeah, I know the album has "ambient" on the cover, but I suspect that was just a hedge Mr Twin used to deflect criticism. It's a collection of odds and sods he had lying around in his studio. There's nothing ambient about Green Calx, which is closer to hardcore techno, and Ptolemy sounds like a Madonna instrumental with some reverb thrown in. It goes on too long. Much the same is true of Actum, which has some electric piano noodling, and (frustratingly, because it has a well-chosen sample) We Are the Music Makers, an uncharacteristically jolly track that could have been the high score music from a car racing computer game of the period. Or Heliosphan, which has a fantastic, epic first minute that eventually goes nowhere. The Richard James that emerged a few years later could have really done something with this raw material, and to be fair he was only fifteen or so in 1985. I'm a few year younger than him, what was I doing in the early 1990s? Not a great deal.

Production-wise it seems as if Mr Twin had a reverb unit but no way of using effects sends, so *everything* is swamped in reverb or there are no effects at all. I have an earlier CD release. It was apparently mastered from a bunch of cassette tapes and sounds it. There's no high-end and the bass on Ageispolis probably wasn't meant to sound like that. There are supposedly tape chewing noises here and there, although apart from a couple of stutters in Actum I can't heard them. I don't know what kind of remastering has been done to the most recent reissue. There was one more track, Soit-PP, that came out at around the same time and has a similar sound but was never included on the album, and it's not included on this either (no great loss - it's a bit naff to be honest). SARCASM Thank the lord they've got rid of that silly old Aphex Twin logo and replaced it with a prancing horse, END SARCASM.

Based on what I've read, Mr Twin had an instinctive approach to composition; he created until he came up with something that set his mind in motion, like a sculptor unsure of his subject. I'm not sure if that explains the appeal of his music. With a few poor choices 85-92 could have been a really poor-quality demo tape from a musical dunce who didn't get techno and had nowhere near enough equipment to rival Brian Eno, and yet it's evocative. I can remember the first time I heard it, a few years after The Orb and The Future Sound of London had taken ambient into the charts with a much slicker sound. It was one of those albums that people read about before listening - even back then - and it sounded ancient to my ears, with its spartan electronic production and crackly noises. And yet it stuck with me because there was something pure about it.
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on 20 May 2012
None of the other reviews have mentioned that this is a remaster - The original album was renowned for the fact that the production was a little ropey - I think this is probably a misunderstanding on the part of audiophiles who reviewed it at the time. The way the album was produced was an essential element of the record - the naturally distorting bass on 'we are the music makers' and 'ageispolis' and the massive bass heavy mix on many of the other tunes.
This new release is a lot louder, brighter and much more detailed in the mids and highs. Some hardcore aphex fans might prefer the mix of the original over this one. I personally prefer this one.
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on 11 March 2008
If you don't have this incredible record, buy it immediately.

If you're at all into electronica/IDM/Techno, this is one of the defining records of the genre, and one you'll come back to again and again.

Track after track of gorgeous, melodic, beat inspired electronica. Largely recorded onto cassette, giving it an intimate, analog feel, this is intelligent techno at it's very best and still stands as RDJ's best album.

One of my favourite records of all-time...
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on 19 April 2012
20 years ago i bought this album and it blew me away; today i find it just as stunning. Quality like this never ages, never diminishes in relevance, never fails to move the listener. If i had to choose one disc over all others then this is it. Beautiful, deceptively simple, perfect in every way.
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on 5 August 2002
Richard D James' first album is one of his finest. This is a collection of material he composed from 1985 to 1992. For someone who was only 15 when some of these tracks were composed it shows incredible vision. 'Tha' is a pulsating dreamlike peice which lasts nine minutes. Ageispolis is drenched in beautiful almost liquid scapes.
This is classic RDJ (Richard D James) material but personally I feel it doesn't show the variety of an album like Druqks. This is a good starting point for anyone who is not familliar with RDJ's work. Albums such 'Ambient works volume 2' are much harder to listen to. I also highly recomend 'The Richard D James Album' as a starting point.
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on 12 November 2014
Ambient Bliss. I have so many collections of chillout and a great deal of them all sound of a similar style of course there are wonderful underground works and this is one of them. This cannot fail to inspire you of a time gone by where the raw use of certain production sounds haunted our ears and souls. Personally, I love this cd after a heavy night of dancing and when we get back we slip this on and travel to another place somewhere in the galaxy. It can take you anywhere you want to go. Who needs a fooking time machine? You have a space machine here.
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on 16 November 1999
Wow! I am really happy that at last I have found somewhere to get this album. It is the most astoundingly beautiful album of ambient music that you will ever spend your money on. I have been looking on and off for years for this; it captures a period in my life that should never be forgotten... (No, I won't tell you about it ;-). The music is relaxing, soothing, inspiring, uplifting, I can't describe it. Buy this album, and tell all your friends to buy it too.
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on 11 February 2008
This was the album that changed my listening tastes. Maybe not the only album, but it's the only one I still listen to. I think The Orb etc have dated much worse than this. Yes, some of it sounds simplistic. Is this a bad thing? Some tracks are very simple, but very beautiful. I don't think it's fair to compare this to his later stuff as it's a completely different thing altogether. I love Windowlicker and Come to Daddy as much as anyone, but this is wonderful music. Only four stars as I feel Surfing on Sine Waves is his early classic. Listen to Strings of Life, No UFO's, Nude Photo blah blah...they all sound basic compared to modern day techno, but that doesn't mean they are bad, just because more sophisticated machines are used nowadays. A previous reviewer said some people might pretend they like it because they know it's Richard D James, and he might be right. Maybe I like this because I was a fan first, in the 90's, before all the great stuff that came after.
Bottom line is..I still like it now.
Heliosphan is a wonderful track, even if Green Calx has always made my skin crawl!
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on 31 December 2010
This album is truly amazing and it never gets old, I would undoubtedly put this in my desert island discs as not only a diverse and structured record but very much an easy listen (compared to some of Aphex Twin's other records). 'Xtal' starts the album off complete with ethereal breathy vocal samples and lush synths, other tracks to look out for include 'We are the music makers', 'Heliosphan' and 'Ptolemy' but the album as a whole is flawless. A must buy for anyone who is a fan of ambient music or for anyone interested in something different.
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on 29 March 2008
This was Richard James masterpiece before he even went on solids. Brilliant albums and songs later this is still the most cohesive he has done
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