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which artists do you insist make progress from one work to another? all of them? any of them? also define 'progress' (verb or noun) in an artistic sense, and give examples of bands you think have done so. is music a giant football field that artists are trying to gain yards on? please talk about drukqs as well, i adore it.

ethan, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Wilco. Jeff Tweedy's songwriting is so good that I want him to make it work in every conceivable genre. He's trying. Compare No Depression to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot... pretty remarkable.

Yancey, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

i haven't heard the new one but summerteeth is one of my favorite pop- rock albums ever (that i don't even own heh) and doesn't deserve to be slandered as alt-country but i would hardly call it progressive!

ethan, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I just wanted to say that I LOVE VESPERTINE AND CONSIDER IT BJORK'S BEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE before mel sees this thread.

matthew m., Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

King Crimson? They progressed from Talkin Heads-lite to unlistenable Avant-Rock.

john-paul, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Low, Flaming Lips, and Mercury Rev all seem to be getting better with each new album.

A Nairn, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I've always felt that every new Depeche album is the best they've ever done, though I am not believed in some corners. ;-) The Walkabouts pretty much can't do any wrong at this point -- they're not where they were when they started and they've covered so much along the way.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Well, obviously "21st Century Schizoid Man" is a watered-down version of "Psycho Killer," as performed by a band which would emerge ten years later. Duh.

matthew m., Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

none of you are answering any of my questions but i just want to say NED YOU ARE INSANE.

ethan, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Jandek. Even if he did actually record his entire oeuvre in a single 36-hour period. Definite "progress" there. Just incremental progress.

We used to get his records at my old radio station every eight months or so, and somebody would always note "He's making real progress on this one!"

Douglas, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

But I revel in it!

Ned Raggett, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Speaking of Jandek, I've been thinking of doing bootleg remixes of his stuff.. I haven't decided whether or not to couple it with Mogwai or Whitehouse..

electric sound of jim, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

i think flaming lips and mercury rev are turing into eachother with every album.

chaki, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I think Low is sounding more Christian with each album.

Curt, Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

talking about summerteeth, i think its a HUGE progression as far as songwriting goes. If you look at Being There, its a solid alt- country album. Summerteeth delved into Beach Boy harmonies and more instrumentation. Yahnkee Hotel Foxtrot takes leaps and bounds from Summerteeth lyrically(how can that be? summer teeth had great lyrics!) and musically as well. I am in love with Wilco.

Brock K., Monday, 11 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Usher. 8701 is lightyears ahead of any of his other stuff (at least what I've heard). Ludacris. Cave In.

adam, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Progress is just a movement beyond an artists' previous work; changes made while conscious of past product? So progress can be good or bad. In fact, I think if a musical career lasts long enough, "bad progress" is almost inevitable, in that there's almost nowhere left to go (while retaining identity).

Dan Irons, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Ethan, I think artists who stake their reputation on being ahead of the pack necessarily cop some criticism when they start to fall behind. Part of the actual enjoyment of Aphex Twin's work has been the sense in which when his records come out they sound like nothing else around. Of course I still love Selected Ambient Works 85-92, indeed probably the most of all his albums, but I nonetheless consider people criticising Drukqs for not doing anything new to be legitimate in doing so. NB: I have not heard Drukqs, so I can only assume the consensus is well-founded.

Of course with IDM it's a bit distorted because when Aphex Twin started he was competing with maybe ten others, and now he's competing with hundreds, thousands of bedroom tinkerers, so the possibility of recognisable innovation shrinks dramatically.

In comparison people aren't likely to criticise Bob Dylan for not pushing boundaries (although I get the impression that Love & Theft evidences *personal* artistic progression) because the critical model that surrounds evaluation of Dylan - and traditional songwriting generally - usually adheres to a fall-from- paradise model rather than a race-to-the-finish-line model.

Tim, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Well what you/I call progress, others will call more of the same. It all depends on how you look at it. How willing are you to accept change? Personally I am easily let down. Which means I am not a completic. I usually give up after a few records. (Ned, you're NOT gonna say you like the last record???? It is a bit wishy washy to say the least. Or maybe the American version is uh.. different? hah!)

Progress also implies they are moving towards a goal, right? Positive change? This is of course subjective (to the listener).

nathalie, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Completic? Completist who can schpell roit.

Nathalie, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

MATT, YOU ARE WRONG. VESPERTINE IS BJÖRK'S WORST WORK TO DATE. And Ethan, you know how I feel about Drukqs. Blegh.

Melissa W, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

In fairness, like them or hate them, I'm somewhere in between, Radiohead have made massive progress. Every rock band talked about "going electronic" but none of them had the balls to do it, I mean this happened all through the 90s.

Ronan, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Dylan is an interesting example Tim because he very much helped to define the artists-must-progress paradigm (acoustic Dylan to electric Dylan to sneering superstar Dylan) and his career and reputation got fucked up thanks to the expectation that he'd keep making revelatory records. The records he did actually make are the sweetest and most un-Dylanish of his career

- and hey, maybe Drukqs makes more sense if you try and put it into a Dylan template! It's Aphex's New Morning or Self-Portrait - sprawling but also cosy, perverse and domestic at the same time (all those gentle interludes, the phone call from his parents, the general resting-on-laurels-having-fun ambience that pisses progressive Aphex fans off...). I like it, anyway.

Tom, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Answer to ethan's first qn: all the ones I really care about (and there aren't many of those). At same time, however, there is also the fear that the "new direction" will be something I hate. Example: Stereolab. I see their career as one big progression and so far, they haven't let me down. But I know plenty of former fans who bailed circa Dots and Loops because they were no longer getting what they wanted from the groop. (Contrarily: people who have never much liked them think they have been ploughing the same, dusty furrow their whole career. But those people are mentalists obv.) Point is, progression is always in the beholder's eye, and that perception is at least partly down to the degree of your initial involvement.

As for Drukqs, what I like about it is the sequencing of the record. It's the one album of 2001 (and I use that term instead of my customary 'LP' deliberately) that only makes sense if you play it all the way through in the prescribed order. Not that I've had the inclination to do that very often! We probably won't know unless and until RDJ deigns to release any of his more recent noodlings if this is just a self-indulgent nod to the influence of 'classical' composers (Delius, Stockhausen, etc.) and drum and bass, or if it's the direction he really wants to go in now. Personally, while I'll always be hoping he can repeat the Windowlicker trick, I'd be equally happy with more stuff along the lines of Gwarek2.

Jeff W, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

yeah i'm into drukqs but dont see the need for the second disc. kniow why that is? cos i havent listened to it basically. but the first one is well good. i fucking love the 7th track on the 1st cd, but its on 2.30 long! fuck that, its so lush!

oh well. that always happens to me. AND it bloody fades out, so is pretty hard to mix with.

ambrose, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

i wonder if druckqs will be one of those albums that gradually gets the kudos and props that weren't there initially, until, one day, it is described as a classic (probably around the time of the next release, when people will say "man this, shit is just druckqs redux, now that was a cool lp"???

me? well, thanks for asking, i'm flattered. i thought it was, mm, ok, on release, but i've warmed to it gradually. i like it, theres a lot of it, you know, it probably takes a while to navigate your path (not discubumerate ya technique okay???). so, yeh, i'm lost now, sorry bout that. look, i'm just trying to say its a Geogaddi cousin, thats all

gareth, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Ned, you're NOT gonna say you like the last record????

Not this again. ;-) Both Dan and I think it is very wonderful, thank you. Yay us!

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Yeah, drukqs is great! Not enough progress? Baloney. Just one example: the prepared-piano tracks are more of a departure than most artists attempt on a new album.

o. nate, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Drukqs is overlong, no doubt, but I do think there's a pretty fair amount of progression in it. Basically, he doesn't let beats speed off into space like on Richard D. James, sort of forcing himself to wrap all those warp-speed breaks back into the rhythm.

Andy, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

"I think if a musical career lasts long enough, "bad progress" is almost inevitable" ---- What about David Bowie, super long career with all good progress.

A Nairn, Tuesday, 12 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

i really wish Mogwai would progress from being one of those bands with skips full of potential to a band capable of greatness.

and, no, they do not nessecitate the same thing.

Wyndham Earl, Wednesday, 13 March 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

four years pass...
I still love drukqs too.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 8 February 2007 17:23 (fifteen years ago) link

i've obviously jumped on the ilm bandwagon about 4 years late. wilco used to be revered here!

and yeah, i like drukqs too

was actually my favourite until i was told i should be liking the 'ambient' stuff more.

Charlie Howard (the sphinx), Thursday, 8 February 2007 17:30 (fifteen years ago) link

Me too, I love it.

KeefW (kmw), Thursday, 8 February 2007 17:49 (fifteen years ago) link

Drukqs is kinda shitty.

jimn (jimnaseum), Thursday, 8 February 2007 17:55 (fifteen years ago) link

And you should be liking the "ambient" shit more.

jimn (jimnaseum), Thursday, 8 February 2007 17:56 (fifteen years ago) link

It suffered from not having a coherent direction. I did dig the piano jams tho, the other stuff not so much...

Disco Nihilist (mjt), Thursday, 8 February 2007 18:17 (fifteen years ago) link

I wonder if people's reaction to Drukqs depends on how much of an Aphex fanboy they were when they first heard it? i.e. those who were waiting with bated breath were more likely to be disappointed.

For me, it's got plenty of good things but it's the least interesting of the "proper" studio albums, no doubt.

It's Tough to Beat Illious (noodle vague), Thursday, 8 February 2007 18:23 (fifteen years ago) link

I started liking it after some review pointed out that there is something coherent in there, piano things, typically followed by more typical Aphex things (or at least stuff a bit like RDJ), followed by thing that sound a bit like Japanese temple sort of stuff, like Nanou 2, for example. This isn't exact, but it did make me like it more, for whatever reason.

I pretty much thought it was shite when it came out.

KeefW (kmw), Thursday, 8 February 2007 18:33 (fifteen years ago) link

It's pretty exact! Noisy beats followed by short prepared piano piece and repeat. It works for me.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 8 February 2007 18:42 (fifteen years ago) link

yeah this cd is good it goes in headphone rotation probly every 3-4 months for the past 5 years

and what (ooo), Thursday, 8 February 2007 19:11 (fifteen years ago) link

i havent heard summer teeth since i was in h.s. but it soundtracked alot of good times with friends, im sure its still pretty good

and what (ooo), Thursday, 8 February 2007 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

luff dis album (drukqs). prefer the tonality of the prprd. disklavier pieces to the prepared piano pieces of cage.

held tony (held tony), Thursday, 8 February 2007 19:59 (fifteen years ago) link

there is a good cohesion in the sequence of tracks, but unsure that it's not just a result of being familiar w/the album. it has a natural flow

held tony (held tony), Thursday, 8 February 2007 20:03 (fifteen years ago) link

I actually just put the ambient/treated piano tracks on my ipod when I ripped it. To me that's a fantastic album and the one he should have really released. If it'd been like some of the Analord stuff I'd have had more patience but it would've still added little to what would've been a very coherent album for him.

Treblekicker (treblekicker), Thursday, 8 February 2007 21:19 (fifteen years ago) link

"I wonder if people's reaction to Drukqs depends on how much of an Aphex fanboy they were when they first heard it? i.e. those who were waiting with bated breath were more likely to be disappointed."

I got into Aphex Twin way late and sorta heard everything all at once. Drukqs struck me as the best. It's still my favorite.

Nigel (Nigel), Thursday, 8 February 2007 22:46 (fifteen years ago) link

i find drukqs to be his most listenable album.

Christopher Costello (CGC), Thursday, 8 February 2007 23:38 (fifteen years ago) link

hey yeah i never got all the drukqs hate when it came out. i thought there was a lot more going on in/with the drill tracks on drukqs than on richard d. james, and the prepared stuff is fantastic. i'm kinda meh on aphex in general though--love 'i care because you do,' squelchy early stuff, SAW 85-92, don't care for SAWII or richard d. james. i might pull out drukqs right now; it's probably been five years since i've heard it.

plan b: videodrome (fauxhemian), Friday, 9 February 2007 00:00 (fifteen years ago) link

i think drukqs suffered from a critical short-circuit

friday on the porch (lfam), Friday, 9 February 2007 03:10 (fifteen years ago) link

Drukqs is every bit as unlistenable as Metal Machine Music.

Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Friday, 9 February 2007 03:16 (fifteen years ago) link

RDJ album is really vibrant/immediate-sounding, compared to Drukqs.. don't know it inside/out yet, but tracks like Peek (track 3) have a hot signal quality, percussion elements nearly distorted, that liquid synth is gorgeous.. it's HOT. a lot of it pops off with super vibrancy, blatant, snappy elasticity, no doubt. Carn Marth is another beaut.. obv. can't speak on it well, I just can't acknowledge the argument that Drukqs is retreading territory, cuz it's undoubtedly more developed and refined.

https://mikeparadinas.bandcamp.com/album/aberystwyth-marine -- this was released last year, but written/recorded in the late 90s. it def bears similarities to the RDJ album

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Tuesday, 11 April 2017 02:54 (five years ago) link

RDJ Album is so clean-sounding, it nearly borders on clinical but somehow it works. I remember reading a thing years ago where he said something like 'I don't like music where you can't hear all the sounds', and that's stuck with me a lot. To this day when I'm listening to (and making) music, I tend to favour stuff that has a great level of detail but nevertheless sounds uncluttered and non-muddy. That sounds kind of obvious but it's one of the reasons I got fed up with so much US indie stuff by the late-00's - stuff like Grizzly Bear and Deerhunter. Everything was just smooshed in all this reverb with all the sounds blurring into each other. There's a fair bit of bass-driven dance music from the d'n'b and dubstep camps that bothers me in this way too.

Lennon, Elvis, Hendrix etc (dog latin), Tuesday, 11 April 2017 08:27 (five years ago) link

Yeah, but then again I one-time did a mix of our band's latest works-in-progress, and our rhythm guitarist gave me grief because he couldn't hear his guitaring, specifically. I did say "hey, you would definitely notice it if it wasn't there" but that's the thing. I remember Martin Hannett of all people remarking that a demo has all the instruments separated out in the stereo picture, and a 'production' has the sounds combined.

Mark G, Wednesday, 12 April 2017 12:56 (five years ago) link

(he wasn't there in person, I read what he said in an article)

Mark G, Wednesday, 12 April 2017 12:57 (five years ago) link

oh yeah, there's definitely an extreme thing where the sounds don't sit in the mix together very well and just kind of glide over each other. And often you get nice artefacts and interactions between two sounds working together. But I still don't like it as much when things get all watery and indistinct for no reason. Certain aesthetics - e.g. shoegaze - rely heavily on this, and i'll often give music like that a free pass because THAT'S THE IDEA; still even with shoegaze I don't like a big mush like a bunch of Play-Doh ball that've been mixed together.

Lennon, Elvis, Hendrix etc (dog latin), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 13:12 (five years ago) link

imo, interactions between sounds "working together" tend to work much better when the sounds are recorded together, simultaneously, in the same room. that way you're capturing the actual acoustic phenomena that's taking place. sounds placed together in a mix might compliment one other, but they're not actually interacting on a raw, physical level.

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:00 (five years ago) link

In electronic music, different parts can be deliberately composed to interact with each other, through choice of notes or choice of sound.

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:07 (five years ago) link

same with any type of music

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:14 (five years ago) link

or, if you're talking about something like a MIDI-controlled network, where multiple pieces of hardware interacting with each other (running simultaneously, interconnected) on the same 'clock', it becomes very interesting.. is that what you're getting at?

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:23 (five years ago) link

*are interacting with each other

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:25 (five years ago) link

Ah, no... I'm more talking about the way that electronic music can be programmed up note-by-note means that there's more scope to become more intricate with interacting parts in a composition, and this is what I love about RDJ's music, particularly on the more drill'n'bass tracks on Drukqs ... each composition is so intricately put together and thoughtfully worked out.

I do see what you mean though, if you place a bunch of musicians together in a room and have them play a piece, the end result can have a natural spark to it that would be lacking if everything was tracked separately. Programming up parts and working on sound design leads to pieces with a different kind of interaction to them.

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:28 (five years ago) link

by "programming" electronic music, do you mean programming sound events (notes, beats, musical content etc.) to occur or coincide w/each other, so that they have the appearance of cause and effect, "interplay" etc., or something more complex, where sound events are triggering events and actually affecting the quality/frequency/behavior of the other sounds?

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 21:18 (five years ago) link

Both, although it all depends on the setup.

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Wednesday, 12 April 2017 21:26 (five years ago) link

Turrican, interesting argument but I don't agree. Electronic music production can have the advantage of allowing one to endlessly track in as many patterns/layers as needed, but that's completely viable in other genres if there's enough musicians, particularly with a huge orchestra for example.

It's possible with any music, the resources just need to be there - just much easier for electronic music.

Carlotta's Portrait (Ross), Thursday, 13 April 2017 23:12 (five years ago) link

That doesn't deter for the deft edge Twin has with the tracks on Druqs, it's expert sonic editing.

Carlotta's Portrait (Ross), Thursday, 13 April 2017 23:13 (five years ago) link

Well yes, the resources have to be there, which is kinda what I'm getting at, which is that with electronic music, you have an incredible level of control over the end result and create parts and compositions that no "actual" musician could possibly play.

I'd love to see an orchestra play one of the drill'n'bass tracks from Drukqs, really I would. In fact, I'd love to see a transcription of one.

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Thursday, 13 April 2017 23:48 (five years ago) link

it's not really what equipment you use, it's the way you compose and mix. if you have too many competing sounds or you mix badly then you're going to end with a very claustrophobic track. Twin is great at making complex mixes sound clean and sparse

Lennon, Elvis, Hendrix etc (dog latin), Thursday, 13 April 2017 23:55 (five years ago) link

there's a group, I think they're called Alarm Will Sound.. they've played one or two of the hyper-detailed tracks from Drukqs, it's gotta be on YouTube. (x-post to Turrican)

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Thursday, 13 April 2017 23:57 (five years ago) link

yeah they did a whole album of live Aphex covers. Don't really care for it much myself but it's an interesting listen

Lennon, Elvis, Hendrix etc (dog latin), Friday, 14 April 2017 00:01 (five years ago) link

it's kind of annoying.. I don't know

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Friday, 14 April 2017 00:01 (five years ago) link


Yeah, now that I do agree with, and it's a huge part of what makes his music such a pleasure to listen to, I don't think I've ever heard a RDJ track that's sounded cluttered, not even his more sonically extreme stuff. Some of his tracks are so intricate and compositionally rich that a cluttered mix would just fuck it all up.

Like yourself, dog latin, I'm not a huge fan of cluttered mixes, particularly with electronic music. What I dislike is when people mistake "cluttered" for "psychedelic", which really gets on my tits.

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Friday, 14 April 2017 00:54 (five years ago) link

Ooh, I've never heard that, I'll have to give that a listen!

...so music and chicken have become intertwined (Turrican), Friday, 14 April 2017 00:58 (five years ago) link

three years pass...

Interesting article about the long and strange afterlife of "Avril 14th" from drukqs:


o. nate, Tuesday, 13 April 2021 17:21 (one year ago) link

Yeah, drukqs is great! Not enough progress? Baloney. Just one example: the prepared-piano tracks are more of a departure than most artists attempt on a new album.
― o. nate, Monday, March 11, 2002 8:00 PM (nineteen years ago) bookmarkflaglink


o. nate, Tuesday, 13 April 2021 17:22 (one year ago) link

Listen to AVRIL 14 [CRAZY FROG EDITION] on #SoundCloud

conrad, Wednesday, 14 April 2021 20:33 (one year ago) link

Thanks for sharing the NYT article. I bought an upright piano for my 6-year-old at the beginning of the pandemic - we've been doing "virtual" lessons, and they've worked surprisingly well.

I had never played piano but play some guitar and needed a project to work on during the days stuck at home between work calls. I began watching "how to play Avril 14th" videos on youtube, and learning to play each section of the song felt like some major achievement. I have played it thousands of times since and am still enamored with the outro, which is also the part that trips me up the most; the walking bass line is no longer a repeating pattern and the right hand melody is playing something totally disconnected, rhythmically. If I actually knew what the hell I was doing like Kelly Moran I could probably just wing the right hand and make it sound much better, but it's been a fun distraction nonetheless.

Indexed, Thursday, 15 April 2021 15:45 (one year ago) link

Heh, I tried to learn it too, since I basically am at a 6-year old's level on keys. The bassline was basically impossible given that I'm working with a 3.5 octave keyboard, so it sounds ridiculous all in the same octave. I tried to come up with my own version with chords or a simple bass part, but def gained new appreciation for the melody/composition (which is my main reason for learning tunes, not really to be able to perform them competently).

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 15 April 2021 15:52 (one year ago) link

Could some kind soul C&P that NYT article?

Maresn3st, Thursday, 15 April 2021 16:53 (one year ago) link

i like the voicings of those first 4 left hand arpeggios

eisimpleir (crüt), Thursday, 15 April 2021 17:09 (one year ago) link

Just took a look at the sheet music. You really have to stretch you hands or move them very quickly. All those octaves! Might be a fun song for 4 hands.

o. nate, Thursday, 15 April 2021 19:29 (one year ago) link

Oh yeah that's the other thing, I have short fingers and was like no way. As a programmer not a pianist, it immediately made sense as something he would have programmed as midi.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 15 April 2021 19:40 (one year ago) link

The Long Tail of Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’
A song released 20 years ago continues to inspire curiosity and covers by classical, experimental and pop artists.
By Eric Ducker - Published April 13, 2021

On April 14, 2020, the producer and pianist Kelly Moran woke up in Long Island. She had temporarily moved back there the previous fall to work on her next album, but when the pandemic arrived, she got stuck. Looking for a challenge to fill the hours that Tuesday morning, she figured out how to play the Aphex Twin song “Avril 14th” and filmed the results on her cellphone.

Like the original, Moran performed it on a prepared piano — a technique developed by the avant-garde composer John Cage where objects are placed in between the instrument’s strings. Moran’s interpretation is tender but eerie, like the sound of a music box that’s about to die. “I always picture a ghost playing this record,” she said in an interview last month.

Moran put the video on Twitter and Instagram, where it became one her most popular posts. “Not everyone is going to like drum and bass or, like, really fast IDM,” she said, referring to intelligent dance music, “but I feel like every person likes a sentimental piano song in some way, shape or form.”

Moran’s cover was one more blip in the strange and improbable life of “Avril 14th,” which turns 20 this year. An instrumental piece that barely lasts two minutes, it has been sampled by pop stars, inspired classical pianists and experimental artists alike, and once cost a major TV network over $100,000 (more on that later). On YouTube there are renditions of it performed on the harp, the pedal steel guitar and dueling vibraphones.

“Avril 14th” was released in October 2001, the same week the first iPod arrived, on the first disc of “Drukqs,” a double album by Aphex Twin, the most common pseudonym of the English musician Richard D. James. The 30-song collection churns across dark ambient works, aggressive breakbeats and sparse piano interludes.

At the time, James claimed he released “Drukqs” because he left an MP3 player filled with unreleased music on a plane. It was only a matter of time, he maintained, before someone figured out what it was and put it all online. There were rumors that James actually released “Drukqs” to get out of his contract with Warp Records, though when its follow-up “Syro” arrived 13 years later, it was on the same label.

James only did a few interviews in support of “Drukqs.” There were no music videos by Chris Cunningham, who directed wickedly perverse treatments for the landmark Aphex Twin songs “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker.” There were barely any tour dates or festival appearances.

James doesn’t disclose much about his creative process, or anything else really. (He did not respond to interview requests and representatives from Warp declined to comment.) From the faint mechanical sounds heard on “Avril 14th,” members of his devoted fan base surmised that it was made on a prepared Disklavier — an acoustic piano created by Yamaha with internal and external MIDI capabilities, which allows it to reproduce a composition without a human player but with incredible accuracy.

“Drukqs” received a mixed critical response, but it did have devotees. Not long after its release, the members of Alarm Will Sound, an adventurous group of classical musicians based in New York, decided to arrange Aphex Twin songs for their chamber orchestra’s 2005 album “Acoustica.” “It felt like a statement to say this is really serious music,” said Alan Pierson, the group’s artistic director. “Aphex Twin is a genius for color and timbre, and so much of ‘Acoustica’ is about that, but with ‘Avril 14th’ it’s really just the notes,” Pierson added. “The notes are really gorgeous.”

Around the same time, the composer and music supervisor Brian Reitzell began work on Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette.” Before shooting began, he compiled two CDs of contemporary music that captured the tone the director wanted, even though it was a period piece. Reitzell felt “Avril 14th” almost served as a bridge between the two eras.

While James passed on Reitzell’s invitation to contribute new compositions for the film’s score (“Some artists are just not comfortable making their art fit into someone else’s art,” Reitzell said), “Avril 14th” does appear in a sequence where Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst, languorously walks through a field and up a palace staircase. Reitzell said that after an early screening for friends, the director Wes Anderson complimented him for including the song, and said he had considered using it for one of his own films, but now was bummed because he felt like it was off limits. It later appeared in the trailer for “Her,” the maudlin A.I. romance from Coppola’s ex-husband, Spike Jonze.

The song’s life in pop culture spiked again just a year later thanks to a longtime fan, Jorma Taccone of the comedy trio the Lonely Island, a group that became famous from its musical digital shorts on “Saturday Night Live.” “I’m the perfect demo for liking that song in terms of I like a lot of electronic music and I’m also a totally emotional, romantic dude,” Taccone said in an interview.

For years he kept a basic beat on his computer featuring a looped sample from “Avril 14th,” but never had the right opportunity to use it. In September 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then the president of Iran, visited New York City and gave a talk stating there were no homosexuals in his country. In response, the Lonely Island created “Iran So Far.” Over Taccone’s “Avril 14th” beat, Andy Samberg performed a love song dedicated to Ahmadinejad, delivering lines like, “You say Iran don’t have the bomb, but they already do/You should know by now, it’s you.”

Because “Saturday Night Live” is made at a breakneck speed, Taccone brushed off the legal department when asked if “Iran So Far” used samples that needed to be cleared, figuring they could deal with any problems later. That meant the network eventually had to pay the label $160,000, Taccone said, and the group couldn’t afford to put it on its own 2009 album, “Incredibad.”

Kanye West ended up replaying a part of “Avril 14th” on “Blame Game,” a key song on his 2010 opus of hedonism and self-loathing “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Coincidentally, West was the musical guest on “S.N.L.” the night the Lonely Island short aired, and Taccone takes pride in the fact that they both saw the possibility in the same unlikely material. “It just made me feel like I was a genius,” he said.

As the popularity of streaming music services rose over the past decade, the record label Silent Star approached the British pianist Martin Jacoby about recording covers for a catalog of tranquil pieces, including “Avril 14th.” Jacoby’s version appears on compilations with search-friendly titles including “Sleepy Baby Lullaby” and “Classical for Studying.” Spotify has included the Aphex Twin version on such curated playlists as “Peaceful Indie Ambient” and “Classical Yoga.”

On the service there are now more than 30 covers of “Avril 14th” by electronic artists and classical musicians. Some have millions of streams of their own. There are jaunty interpretations and atmospheric ones. Others stay loyal to Aphex Twin. “It’s almost divorced from him as an artist,” said Jacoby, of the track’s originator. “It’s become one of those pieces that’s now exploded in its own right.”

While this popularity may expose classical music fans to the sometimes overwhelming, occasionally terrorizing music of Aphex Twin, the exchange also flows the other way. “It’s a gateway to Debussy, or some of the other amazing piano pieces that are out there,” said Reitzell, the music supervisor. “If you like that piece, man, I’ve got 30 more for you. That is the most beautiful thing about music. That song will probably outlive Richard’s entire catalog in a way.”

But Moran hears an even more fundamental reason modern listeners have turned a haunting piano piece with minimalist influences into a digital era phenomenon. Before our interview, she transcribed “Avril 14th” again to refamiliarize herself with it. Holding up the piece of paper, she noted its chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. “Honestly,” she said, “this is like a pop song to me.”

G.A.G.S. (Gophers Against Getting Stuffed) (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 17 April 2021 04:11 (one year ago) link

I guess I’m in good company waking up in Long Island and trying to play it also

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Saturday, 17 April 2021 05:14 (one year ago) link

i like avril 14 s the rest is pretty boring as i have given it many chances and i just can not get into it!

xzanfar, Saturday, 17 April 2021 15:44 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Drukqs is every bit as unlistenable as Metal Machine Music.
― Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Friday, February 9, 2007 3:16 AM (fifteen years ago) bookmarkflaglink

Shut up, asshole.

Mr. Snrub, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 00:33 (seven months ago) link

lmao I guess that was a phase

octobeard, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 01:29 (seven months ago) link

I tend to keep my negative opinions on music to myself rather than post 'em here, but I did make an early post about how Super AE by Boredoms was one of the worst albums ever and I was so so wrong

Vinnie, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 01:42 (seven months ago) link

this seems like it's THE aphex album for a lot of kids who discovered him in the last decade, which is so wild given that it was considered a disappointment when it first came out. (and still not in my top five.)

brisk money (lukas), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 04:38 (seven months ago) link

six months pass...


of the drum machine

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Thursday, 17 November 2022 02:20 (two weeks ago) link

this is the greatest album of all time

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Thursday, 17 November 2022 02:20 (two weeks ago) link

this seems like it's THE aphex album for a lot of kids who discovered him in the last decade, which is so wild given that it was considered a disappointment when it first came out. (and still not in my top five.)

― brisk money (lukas), Monday, April 18, 2022 9:38 PM (six months ago)

It's his most accessible by far for contemporary tastes. RDJ is too eccentric, Come to Daddy too short, ICBYD is too "hard", SAW II is too ethereal and specialized, and everything else is a side project or dated in its sound (Classics). Drukqs is well rounded and accessible, under his main moniker and showcases most of his range enough to be a perfect intro. Makes sense.

octobeard, Thursday, 17 November 2022 18:22 (two weeks ago) link

That's definitely the first time I've seen "DRUKQS" and "accessible" used in the same sentence

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 17 November 2022 18:48 (two weeks ago) link

It will never be my favorite Aphex album, there's something monochrome about it to me. Still amazing obviously.

I really enjoyed this first-time reaction video by a musician: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO_zMfLpjqI

death generator (lukas), Thursday, 17 November 2022 19:55 (two weeks ago) link

xp relative to his other stuff yeah. And a ton of the piano bits are super accessible. Drum and bass and some of his more spastic acid tracks aren't nearly as "experimental" as they used to be given some of the normalization of glitchy electronic music since the 2010's.

octobeard, Friday, 18 November 2022 23:38 (two weeks ago) link

i think RDJ is his most accessible mainstream release, but that's just me

Karl Malone, Friday, 18 November 2022 23:41 (two weeks ago) link

cool video, thanks for sharing

ꙮ (map), Friday, 18 November 2022 23:59 (two weeks ago) link

I think ICBYD is pretty accessible (it’s what first got me into RDJ, when I had very little background electronic music). “Come to Daddy, skip Track 1” is also a classic entry point.

I probably wouldn’t pass along a 2CD as an entry point to any artist…

"Mick Wall at Kerrang!" (morrisp), Saturday, 19 November 2022 00:13 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah accessible is a relative thing with this dude. RDJ Album to Windowlicker is by far my favorite period of his (despite ICBYD being my favorite singular album of his) and what I'd deem the most "accessible", but there's a ton of stuff before or since too that fills this bucket. Those records aren't as diverse and intense and as pretty as Drukqs, even if I think they're more overflowing with originality and personality. He set a pretty high bar. Shit like SAW 85-92 could be construed as accessible, but it's also super minimalist and roughly recorded, sounding quite dated.

Ixi even goes into this at the end of Meltphace 6 (59:15 in) where she herself confesses she is "primed" to enjoy this record more and likely wouldn't have appreciated it back then. For an earlier track she referenced Venetian Snares, implying she got around to listening to Aaron Funk before Richard James (which I found surprising). What was experimental then is now much more accessible and more people are exposed to these genres. Back then, especially in the US, this kind of music was nary to be heard outside of a tiny nerdy pocket communities. The "mainstream" here has come around to this album and is primed for it like Ixi. In terms of how RDJ's records translate to contemporary tastes, I still stand that this record is the most comprehensively accessible while simultaneously variant enough in style to truly give you a glimpse into Richard's oeuvre. The timbre of the beats and percussion feel more contemporary than the textures used in RDJ or Come to Daddy. If anything it truly shows how visionary this record is and how timeless a lot of Aphex's music is, especially in this window between 96-01.

octobeard, Saturday, 19 November 2022 00:52 (two weeks ago) link

I spotted Aphex on my 12 year olds Spotify

calstars, Saturday, 19 November 2022 00:54 (two weeks ago) link

(it's ixi rather than lxi btw, which is odd because ixi-lang is the name of some music live-coding programme)

koogs, Saturday, 19 November 2022 08:19 (two weeks ago) link

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