Aphex Twin should be buried next to Muslimgauze and Vincent Price in a cemetery of the weird (when the time comes, of course).
Aphex and Muslim were both examples of a perfect paradox, being both habitually and purposefully underground and recognized simultaneously. While Muslimgauze passed prematurely, we continue to experience the revolution that is Richard D. James' career in the music industry, or rather, Richard D. James versus the conventional music industry.
For those unfamiliar with how far Aphex Twin will go to subvert typical channels and determine his career, the bleepbloop enigma announced the release of his album Syro (which took years to produce) via cryptic deep web statements and press releases in broken English. Venturing beyond possibility, one could only imagine James eventually just releasing straight to What.Cd. We don't have proof that he didn't and one believes he must have.
Richard D. James, it should go without saying, is much much much much more than just a unique marketer or brand craftsman. His music has been influential, groundbreaking and above all else, difficult. Aphex's catalog jumps from easily digested ambient tracks like those found on Selected Ambient Works II (1994) (including my all time favorite song "Cliffs" to glitchier tracks like Cock/Ver10 (substantially more difficult tracks exist, but we all have our favorites).
This is important to keep in mind because every decision and move Aphex makes should be understood as part of an evolution. Also important, his fans are a uniquely devoted crop, unique not for their love of Aphex Twin but for their proclivity towards diversity, complexity and a host of other qualities no producer has approached with quite the same authenticity as Aphex.
Anyway, the point of this article is to bring you here, to a new storefront launched by Aphex and Warp (his home label, and arguably the most important label in electronic music). No longer do fans have to search unverified and strange Soundcloud channels or hop on forums to collect vinyl or even sacrifice small animals in a santeriaesque tribute to our demichrist, Richard D. James.
For hardcore Aphex fans, for followers of electronic music, and for students of the bleep bloop coming into their own as musicians and consumers alike, this is a giant leap forward. It's safe to say that electronic music just wouldn't be where it is today without Aphex's contributions, and finally, we have a treasure trove of tracks to complete EP's, new collections entirely, and the in-betweens that Aphex hath born.
In a world without What.CD, Richard fills that niche in our lives once more. While Warp likely made the site in terms of hard code (even though we can rest assured that Aphex can 1010101 whatever he likes) nothing is done without his approval.
Will this work, is Aphex filling a need that existed or is this storefront just something that was on a project board at Warp?
I believe it will work, and that similar musicians should be paying attention. In an age likely to be defined by online microtransactions and Patreon type highly personal financial models, Aphex is groundbreaking once more.
By having a storefront crafted (so obviously) by Aphex personally, he presents his fans with another way to reach him. Not reach in the communication sense, but reach in the sense that the fan understands that this is how Aphex intends for his release to be digested. He wants you to see the low-quality digital background, he doesn't want his releases to be easily sorted, filtered, and purchased without thought.
Those desiring ease of use and convenience will be disappointed, but those are not real Aphex Twin fans, and real fans won't be bothered to the same degree that they'll appreciate the care.
And bands should learn from this. Each musician should strive to inject their personality, their artistic lens and their care to the packaging of their music, be it physical or digital. As a consumer, I know that this is something bigger than a marketing ploy and as a stingy consumer, I know that this track will be worth donating the money. I could steal it, but I'm on this site because I already appreciate this musician. Will I buy any music with the access to the online libraries I already have? Unlikely. Will I give an artist ten dollars because I want to support them so that they can keep making music and be rewarded for their efforts? Yeah, hell yeah.
And therein lies the lesson.
And so this is Aphex reaching out to fans. It's never been a money grab with Aphex and never will be. It couldn't be, not from a man who doesn't play shows when world tours would sell out like Bieber at a mall. This is Aphex making things easier for the fans, for those who appreciate his work, for those who find inspiration to continue in their lives from what he produces.
Thanks, Aphex Twin! Much appreciate, bro.