As a fan of Aphex Twin for as long as the author and as someone who has followed Warp records and Rephlex for the last 18 years I spent most of my time reading this thinking "why haven't I written this book myself already". Unsurprisingly lacking new information from RDJ himself, the author speaks with other figures related to the release of the album and people who have been influenced by it since. In these interviews there are some interesting stories and some new information comes to light, but little to add anything to the mysterious making of SAW II 20 years ago. The section on RDJ's signing to Sire records is not one I've seen discussed elsewhere and there's a nice interview about the Alarm Will Sound reinterpretations.
Ultimately, this is a slightly unfullfilling text for any long term fans, but possibly a good introduction to anyone interested in one of the most unique and opaque albums of the 20th century. My advice: get the album, fall asleep to it and draw your own conclusions on how it was made and why.
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I hate reading about music but was intrigued to see that someone had something to say about this album. Really should have known better. Everything bad about music journalism is here, x10. The middle-classness of it. God. If you ever had your doubts this will convince you never to read a music review ever again.
Never was the phrase "Trying to write about music is like trying to knit a gas jumper" more apt than here.
On the one hand, anyone buying a book about the Aphex Twin expecting to learn more about this most publicity-shy of artists only has themselves to blame.
On the other hand, having read Chris Ott's decent book on Unknown Pleasures (also from the 33 1/3 series) I expected something passable.
There is an awful lot of pointless discussion in this book. There's nothing wrong per se in reading someone else's thoughts on the Aphex Twin's second album "Selected Ambient Works Volume II" - even if their musings don't contain any new information, but here Marc Weidenbaum wastes space and time on such topics as the track names on Gracenote, (pedantically) why there was never a volume 1 (the Aphex Twin's previous release having been titled "Selected Ambient Works 85-92": this discussion could apply to any number of releases Marc, e.g. Abba's "Greatest Hits" and "Greatest Hits Vol. 2") and what volume 3 might sound like.
As an introduction to the album this book fails with its confusing prose and general lack of basic information about the artist. The topics that the author tries to touch on are more suitable for a thesis or a text book than a 127 page book about a classic, if quirky, album. If you want an introduction to the record, just buy the record - it'll probably cost you about the same anyway.
Controversially, Marc Weidenbaum appears to presume that Richard D. James was influenced by Brian Eno in the making of this record, but I personally don't think that can be taken as read and I didn't find it a useful parallel. Indeed, whilst I didn't do a word count, I can say for certain that the name "Brian Eno" crops up more in this book than the name "Richard D. James" and probably also occurs more even than the name "Aphex Twin". How can that be in a book ABOUT the Aphex Twin? In fact, no kidding, I learned more about the making of Eno's "Discreet Music" LP than I did about "Selected Ambient Works Volume II" from this book.
There are a few interesting facts, which it would be unfair of me to give away here, including, as a previous reviewer has mentioned, how Warp Records did the deal with Sire Records for the US release - but that really is as good as it gets (i.e. not very): nothing that really justifies the purchase price.
Overall, I can't fault the author's/publishers choice of record and it's not that badly written in comparison with other music books. The main problem is that the book is lacking any genuine substance. Maybe a better editor encouraging the author to use more press clippings and interviews with those who know James would have been a better idea?
Even if you're a big fan of the Aphex Twin, do yourself a favour and browse this in Waterstones, don't bother buying it.
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