Synthesis Research – Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin is the primary moniker used by British electronic composer/musician Richard D. James. He creates mostly electronic music falling under the category of ‘IDM’ but much of his work can also be described as ‘acid house/techno’, or more broadly, ‘electronica’. His work has been a huge influence on the worldwide electronic music scene in its later, more experimental phase of the 90s. He is well known for his use of machines and programs heavily modified or even created by himself to synthesise sounds. Although he most notably used the roland TB-303 synthesiser and TR-808 drum machine for many compositions he also makes use of these unique methods. Richard’s exclusive use of synthesisers, drum machines and computers to create his music strongly contributes to his often harsh but very complex and full sound. Most often he uses subtractive synthesisers, and is also a strong advocate for analogue technology. He also makes more organic, ambient tracks, but often his longer tracks are hard-hitting, fast and very robotic sounding. Another point of praise is that despite being comprised of complex, electronic sounds his work is almost always very melodic at the same time, hitting a sweet spot for listeners who can endure the less palatable sounds. More recently Richard has been utlising methods to control acoustic instruments using computers and record the result, but is still using synthesis to complement these new sounds.

This track ‘Vordhosbn’, is a stellar (and fairly accessible) example of Richard’s work. The high-energy percussion is complemented by lovely atmospheric synths and clear melodies and counter-melodies which serve to create an engaging journey within the track. There is a strong contrast between the percussive synths, such as the low-end hits, which are very harsh, and the melodic synths, which are very soft and smooth for the most part. An excellent piece of music which represents the parts of his style I enjoy most.

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