Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992), 7/10

I first experienced Selected Ambient Works 85-92 while I was cycling, blanketed by the cool summer breeze just before dawn, when the city was still asleep. In that enchanting setting and time, the album's ethereal melodies and atmospheric textures took on a whole new meaning, casting a spell that would make a lasting impact on my approach to ambient music. From the very first notes of "Xtal," I was entranced. It's a track that possesses an undeniable brilliance and beauty, capable of sending shivers down your spine. The delicate interplay of mesmerizing synth patterns, cascading arpeggios, and subtle percussion creates a landscape that invites you into a space of tranquility and even introspection. The repetition, if you can call it that despite the impressive breadth of the album, is superbly infectious and graceful. Worth repeating, "Xtal" is truly an opener that sets the stage for the sonic journey that lies ahead; it is a masterfully executed, tone-setting track that carries worthy significance. Going forward, what makes Selected Ambient Works 85-92 truly exceptional is its consistent quality throughout its expansive seventy-four minute runtime, a testament to Richard D. James' meticulous curation and creative prowess. Each composition stands on its own, yet seamlessly blends into the overall tapestry of the album and its many motifs. From the haunting beauty of "Tha" to the evocative melancholy of "Pulsewidth" and the hypnotic pulse of "Heliosphan," it showcases an adept fusion of ambient textures, melodic motifs, and intricate production. It is an album that reveals new layers and nuances with each subsequent listen, rewarding those who delve deeper into its details, something that can be said of many great albums and is especially true for this debut. James crafted a work that defies easy categorization despite its title, blurring the lines between ambient, electronic, and experimental electronic music. It's a testament to his unique artistic vision and innovative approach to sound. It's also worth mentioning the delightful sample from Gene Wilder's titular character in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory that adds a simple, jovial innocence; it is playful yet poignant. The album is, again, one that rewards attentive listening and invites the listener to immerse themselves in its atmospheric embrace, and sometimes to simply get lost in the solace of its comforting repetition. It's considerable accessibility and surprisingly wide appeal come from this comforting, yet exhilarant demeanor. Aphex Twin's early contribution to the world of progressive electronic music cannot be overstated and this album stands as a testament to his enlightened instinct and imagination.