46. Aphex Twin – Bucephalus bouncing ball

/ Come to Daddy, Pappy mix, Warp, 1997

aphex_come

Very few B sides can have found themselves chosen as official BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, but ‘Bucephalus bouncing ball’ is one such, selected by comedian Vic Reeves in 2003.  Possibly it’s the one and only Desert Island B side.  It’s also been selected by Warp co-founder Steve Beckett for Chosen, one of a plethora of releases celebrating twenty years of Warp.  Somewhat inevitably, Beckett has gone for a more engaging set from the Warp back catalogue than has resulted from the top ten popular vote for the first of the CD’s two discs.  Complete with the landscape photography of Dan Holdsworth, it’s a typically beautiful package, and along with Recreated, on which Warp artists cover favourite moments from the back catalogue across another pair of discs, we are given as good an overview of Warp’s breadth of vision as we were likely to get.  And, the top ten classics aside, they work as compilations, one track flowing into the next, snaking back and forth through the years, and opening up for further investigation those Warp artists you may have missed through needing to blink occasionally.

Aphex Twin’s presence is felt across the Warp20 releases, of course.  In the future, they’ll write musicological monographs about the work of Richard D. James.  They probably already have.  While there are a number of Warp recording artists I like more (Autechre, Broadcast, Boards Of Canada, Gravenhurst, Guillermo Scott Herren, Antipop Consortium), it’s impossible not to admire both RDJ’s range and his approach to making music, not to mention the image or anti-image that he has either deliberately crafted or carelessly and haphazardly fostered in retaliation to the irritation of interactions with the media.

A latter-day tour-de-force demonstration of stereophonic effects, ‘Bucephalus bouncing ball’ sounds not so much like a single sphere at work as several, metallically pinging round the insides of RDJ’s brain – or at least his computer – like a speeded-up multi-ball version of Pong, the early video tennis game.  Set against the condescension of a simple melody picked out on his synth and an accompanying mournful wash of chords, the balls proliferate mathematically, trying to effect their escape.  Released from the speakers, they burrow their way into your brain and who knows what the consequences will be then?

Miscellany

  1. Bucephalus was the name of Alexander the Great’s favourite horse.
  2. ‘Bucephalus bouncing ball’ was also used in the soundtrack of the film Pi and appears in several scenes of the movie each time the main character repeats his monologue.
  3. Arcade Fire associates Bell Orchestre have recently recorded a cover version of ‘Bucephalus bouncing ball’ for their album As seen through windows.
  4. The unsettling jungle-punk and techno smears of ‘Come to daddy’ made it to number 36 in the UK charts.
  5. Richard D James deliberately holds back his best music from public consumption: ‘You end up hating your own music.  So you have to protect it.’ (Interview with The wire, 2003)
  6. ‘Acrid avid jam shred’ is an anagram of Richard D James.
  7. Vic Reeves’ pick of his eight choices was ‘Lark Ascending’, while his book was  Three men in a boat.  And his luxury?  Potato seeds.
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