This music is new to me, and the fact that I am already going to “write about it” is so typical of “what is wrong with today’s world”. But we all want to fit in, so I will do it anyway. Don’t be a stick in the mud, be a beachball bouncing on the white water rapids of life, I said to myself, and now to whoever is reading this. It helps that Aphex Twin, aka Richard D James, is familiar enough, three of his albums from the nineties are frequent companions. But this track is new, discovered this morning as part of my recent, cautious tip-toeing through Spotify’s sweetshop. So if you haven’t heard it either, we are in (almost) the same boat, and in the same strained metaphor.
Aphex Twin’s records have something that I admire in music more than anything else. They are strangely likeable, and the more accessible he gets, the more I like it. He does have some tricksy stuff up his sleeve, and some devilish rhythmic games, but there are simple tunes and basslines at its heart. With three or four chords, a handful of notes, some catchy groove or another, he can make something that endures. Invoked by obvious painstaking programming and editing, like endless rubbing of a lamp to summon a genie, there it is; the sheer likeableness.
His persona as seen in earlier videos by Chris Cunningham, is a kind of children’s doll from a horror film brought to life by vintage synthesisers, his head grafted gruesomely on to bodies of women and children. The music, though, is pretty and lyrical in the places where it isn’t almost gory (“4” represents the former, “Come To Daddy” the latter), locked in a sort of “good twin, bad twin” oscillation.
This video, however, is directed by Ryan Wyer, discovered by the aforementioned Mr Twin on a gaming YouTube channel. Mr Wyer, it emerges, is twelve years old. He does what a lot of twelve year olds do. He points his phone, equipped with a video camera, out of train windows. He films his mates dancing and cartwheeling in front of his house; he slows up the film, he puts filters on it. Nothing fancy. He wears an Aphex Twin mask. He likes, apparently, Mr Twin’s “Smojphace” E.P, a mix of this track by Bug ft. Daddy Freddy…in other words, he knows things that grown ups bemoaning his time spent on the internet will never know. And he captures something.
To access his videos, you have to wade through an expensive looking advertisement for yoghurt. I like yoghurt, but I’ve forgotten the brand already. I would have given the yoghurt advertisement more attention, but the thing I am impatient to watch is at the end of it so I don’t. All that money, that yoghurt money, down the drain.
What used to take patient research, long listening, searching out, I have discovered in ten minutes of daisy-chained clicks, one page directing to another, and then in turn another, like endlessly reproducing cells. It’s like a gas in my brain, what once were, in a pre-internet world, solid facts as artifacts, now fleeting and floating molecules, fragments of collected sound and vision. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I am still in my pyjamas at 11.44.
YouTube is full of this stuff, of homemade videos to music people like. It’s easy to do, maybe too easy. And yet, Ryan’s video says more than any amount of hi-tech, focus group-led zeitgeisty flick can ever say, more than a yoghurt commercial and more than a multi million dollar swashbuckling scifi hit. Kids, dancing around on a street in front of a house, is pure enjoyment without purpose. It’s a window on the world, and I am going to watch it again. There’s a certain lightness of touch in the way the sounds meander along to the action. A woman with a buggy waves as she passes, an event which in no way is reflected in the music.
Aphex Twin’s music turns out to be written on, and about, a synthesiser. The Cheetah MS800 is a famously awkward instrument to program; it takes a long time to produce the most basic sounds. The album is called “Cheetah”, in the way that Everest climber Edmund Hilary’s autobiography is called “View From The Summit”. A thing conquered, just for the sake of it. Some slowness in a world of speed is OK too. It’s good to dance, but sometimes it’s good to just sit in one’s pyjamas.