Some Solace in the Beeps and Boops of Aphex Twin

By Linnea Anderson

photo: Linnea Anderson

“If aliens heard it, they’d know it’s music,” my brother once described his favorite band, Shpongle. 

Like those aliens, Shpongle feels foreign to me. A quite barren terrain. Maybe a hair too niche.

Maybe one day I’ll get on my brother’s level. But for now, I listen to my preferred beeps and boops. 

Leave out the lyrics, sure, I like that. But how about a couple ad-libs here and there. Not in every song, but just enough. Maybe the tones are the star of the show, but not without a touch of commentary. 

Boards of Canada does this well, and Brian Eno or Kraftwerk might be the fathers of it, but no one masters it quite like Aphex Twin. 

“We are the music makers,” his song signals. 

It is what music becomes when it means nothing at all.

Make a hundred old computers jabber in some encrypted code. And make it all happen in one room. And make it a touch too loud. A little overwhelming. And curiously synchronized. 

Slap a grimacing face and gibberish name on it and there you have maybe every Aphex Twin song ever made.

And so I understand why it may not click with some folks. But in that way, its inaccessibility becomes universal. What is heard is not on the same plane as the singer-songwriter familiarity that intrigues me and many others. It is remote and distant, even detached from humanity. Somehow, that makes it all the more intriguing. 

It gabs with an eerie dormancy, that despite despondent, simulates life in some peculiar way. 

On paper, my love for Aphex Twin makes absolutely, without a doubt, zero sense. 

Maybe it’s hard to explain what is so great about something so disastrously artful.

In the same way that Shpongle connects my brother to some vision of dancing extraterrestrials, Aphex Twin disconnects me from the grudgingly anatomical task of being human. 

It might be the last thing humans were ever supposed to listen to. 

It might be completely rewiring my neurotransmitters. 

It could be absolutely frying my brain. 

But what I know for sure, is that the chaos offers so much quiet. 

Because between me and those sounds is a whole world of complete illusion. One I will never grasp. And maybe it reminds me that I don’t really have to “get it” to enjoy it. And in that, I find solace. 

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