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Aphex Twin Week: Video Vault Part I: Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2

Welcome to Day 4 of Aphex Twin Week, in celebration of our new 33 1/3 title, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, by Marc Weidenbaum (revisit Marc’s author Q&A, here). Here’s Marc’s first of 2 video vault entries.

on stillSelected Ambient Works Volume II‘s release on the label Warp in 1994 was framed by the pair of singles that directly preceded and succeeded it, both of which were EPs that had accompanying videos. The two EPs are intense in their own ways, and work to further emphasize the unusually vaporous qualities of the album.

Just before the record came “On,” a frenetic track whose surreal video — stop motion by the sea shore — was directed by Jarvis Cocker, best known as a member of the band Pulp. A native of Sheffield, England, like the founders of Warp, Cocker had, along with his directing partner Martin Wallace, previously made videos for such Warp-label roster members as Nightmares on Wax and Sweet Exorcist. After an idyllic if sped-up opening of water along the beach, it gets all Ray Harryhausen — well, Ray Harryhausen meets Sigmund and the Sea Monsters — with more than a touch of Terry Gilliam’s penchant for hand-cut images, absurd combinations of objects, and hand-of-God (or, well, hand-of-Animator) intrusions. In a hint of Aphex Twin’s own appearance in the videos that Chris Cunningham would soon be directing for him (“Come to Daddy,” “Windowlicker”), the musician appears here as a life-size cardboard cutout:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-US91WU8zA]

The “On” video is a hoot, and the song was a hit of a sort: It made frequent rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes. However, as I recount in the book, it also set up listeners for a big surprise when the gauzy haze that was Selected Ambient Works Volume II eventually arrived.

And in tomorrow’s post, I’ll feature the intensely claustrophobic 1995 single and video that bookended Selected Ambient Works Volume II, including some comments on the subject by Richard D. James himself.
Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II is out today, February 13 at Bloomsbury.com, on Amazon, or wherever 33 1/3s are sold.

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