APHEX TWIN | RICHARD DAVIS JAMES | ARTIST – PRODUCER – MUSICIAN
In the field of electronic dance music, one name is esteemed more than any other. Richard David James, or Aphex Twin, has been producing crazy beats and beautiful melodies with machines for more than 30 years. From the early ’90s to the present day, he has released dozens of dazzling works in a range of styles and formats. The ambitious and idiosyncratic music of Richard James spans multiple generations and genres, from ambient electronica to techno, jungle, IDM, and beyond.
Music releases in the ’90s
The Aphex Twin story starts in 1991, with Richard’s debut EP Analogue Bubblebath released on Mighty Force Records. This was an incredibly exciting period in the UK, just after the second summer of love at the peak of the rave and ecstasy revolution. Richard had already been DJing at free parties and clubs around Cornwall, and it wasn’t long before he spread his wings into Europe.
James co-founded the independent label Rephlex Records around this time and released his debut album Selected Ambient Works 85–92 in 1992. With its rich analog pads, bubbling acid lines, and off-kilter melodies, this album had widespread critical and popular appeal. Aphex Twin signed to the acclaimed Warp label in 1993 and released Selected Ambient Works Volume II in 1994. Over the next few years, James released some of the most mind-bending and ground-breaking music of recent times.
Throughout the ’90s, Aphex Twin injected new rhythms and colors into the musical world. Familiar analog synths were mixed with ultra-edited breaks, playful vocal lines, and cutting-edge software textures. During this period of experimentation and discovery, Richard also enjoyed his biggest commercial successes. The albums I Care Because You Do from 1995 and Richard D. James Album from 1996 hit the charts, and the singles “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker” even reached the top 40. Both of these songs were accompanied by spectacular — and somewhat disturbing — music videos by Chris Cunningham, which made the world sit up and pay attention.
The 2000s until now
Following his time in the sun, James slowed down his release schedule. The next Aphex Twin album Drukqs came in 2001, featuring a unique mixture of fast breaks, prepared piano, and inventive composition. This album wasn’t a great commercial success, and it completed his contract with Warp. James spent the next few years releasing music on Rephlex, often under one of many pseudonyms. The 2005 Analord EP series was released under his “AFX” alias, a couple of 2007 releases came out under “The Tuss,” and material from 1994 was released in 2014 as “Caustic Window.”
Richard’s release schedule slowed again, with the “Aphex Twin” name revived in 2014 for the album Syro. Released on Warp, this album reached number 11 on the Billboard charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Since then, Richard has released multiple EPs, including Cheetah from 2016, Collapse from 2018, and Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / In a Room7 F760 from 2023.
Along with official releases, Richard D. James has shared lots of work through unofficial channels, often under pseudonyms. Along with Aphex Twin, James has recorded as AFX, Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Universal Indicator, Caustic Window, Smojphace, GAK, PBoD (Phonic Boy on Dope), Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Q-Chastic, Dice Man, The Tuss, Soit-P.P, and user18081971.
Vision and influence
As one of the most dazzling and influential artists in the history of electronic music, Aphex Twin has had a profound influence on the contemporary music scene. The musical output of Richard D. James is incredibly diverse, but it also has a singular vision. His early reflective works helped to kick-start the ambient genre, his IDM breaks brought new energy to the dance floor, and his gorgeous microtonal melodies injected real feelings into electronics.
The inventive music of Aphex Twin has influenced some of the biggest names in contemporary music, from Daft Punk to Steve Reich to Tame Impala and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has called Aphex Twin his biggest influence, saying he “burns a heavy shadow” and “opened up another world.” His influence has spread beyond the world of electronic or even pop music, with his output often cited by classical composers and performed by acoustic groups and orchestras.
From his warm ambient tones to his braindance beats and perfect melodies, Richard D. James is a real musical pioneer with a stunning body of work. In a genre and industry saturated with copycats, Aphex Twin is the rarest of all things — a true original.