Analogue Bubblebath (1991)
Classics (1999 Compilation)
Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1993) Also here
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Exploring the experimental possibilities inherent in acid and ambience, the two major influences on home-listening techno during the late '80s, Richard D. James' recordings as Aphex Twin brought him more critical praise than any other electronic artist during the 1990s. Though his first major single, "Didgeridoo," was a piece of acid thrash designed to tire dancers during his DJ sets, ambient stylists and critics later took him under their wing for Selected Ambient Works 85-92, a sublime touchstone in the field of ambient techno.
Inspired by acid house in the late '80s, James began DJing raves around Cornwall. His first release was the Analogue Bubblebath EP, recorded with Tom Middleton and released on the Mighty Force label in September 1991. Middleton left later that year to form Global Communication, after which James recorded a second volume in the Analogue Bubblebath series. This EP (the first to include "Digeridoo") got some airplay on the London pirate radio station Kiss FM, and prompted Belgium's R&S Records to sign him early the following year. A re-recording of "Digeridoo" made number 55 in the British charts just after its April 1992 release date, and James followed with the Xylem Tube EP in June. He also co-formed (with Grant Wilson-Claridge) his own Rephlex label around that time, releasing a series of singles as Caustic Window during 1992-1993. Available in cruelly limited editions, most of the recordings continued the cold acid precision of "Digeridoo" — though several expressed humor and fragility barely dreamed of in the hardcore/rave scene to that point.
The climate for "intelligent" techno had begun to warm in the early '90s, though. The Orb had proved the commercial viability of ambient house with their chart-topping "Blue Room" single, and R&S scrambled to find useful material from its own artists. In November 1992, James acquiesced with Selected Ambient Works 85-92, consisting mostly of home material recorded during the past few years. Simply stated, it was a masterpiece of ambient techno, the genre's second work of brilliance after the Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.