Album Reviews

AFX – Hangable Auto Bulb

(Warp) UK release date: 31 October 2005


This has been quite a year for fans of Mr. Richard D. James. After already releasing the Analord series on 12″, now the man best known as Aphex Twin delivers what is arguably his most sought after works on CD for the first time.

When originally released in 1995 the Hangable Auto Bulb EPs were limited to 1000 copies. It is no surprise then, that even the sniff of them on eBay since has created a mad scramble amongst electronica enthusiasts.

So, what�s so special about them? Well, it is not often that you can truly say an album was groundbreaking, but that is exactly what the two Hangable Auto Bulb EPs were, being the first to mix computer-arranged break beats with the electronic melodies which were already apparent on James� previous work. It was a style which was to influence countless producers and become synonymous with successive Aphex Twin releases.

Now, ten years on, the EPs have been re-issued together on one CD and although not sounding as radical nowadays have, without doubt, stood the test of time.

First track Children Talking is based around an almost techno sounding background, such are the frenetic drum breaks, whilst a child�s voice is heard complaining about having to eat mashed potatoes. As the track progresses the voices are electronically altered and distorted in a way used by Boards of Canada among others in subsequent years.

The title track, which follows, is an anagram of Analogue Bubblebath – the title of James� first release under the AFX moniker he also uses here. Dark and abstract, it borrows the ambient vein of the artist�s early work but uniquely is layered with the kind of atmospheric drill n� bass also adopted at the time by Squarepusher and Luke Vibert.

Every track brings something different to the party, despite the break beats that are a constant. The high tempo yet melodic Laughable Butane Bob is a real highlight and arrives as a perfect example of the intelligent dance music genre. Interestingly it also shows the influence ambient electronica godfathers Tangerine Dream had on James and his peers. Not obvious perhaps but it undeniably exists.

The six-second long Bit could either be viewed as creative genius or a waste of time – sounding a little like you might imagine it would sound if you could hear the Loch Ness monster�s stomach rumbling.

But whatever your views on track 4, track 5 is back to what in essence these EPs were about. The complexity which separated drill n� bass from early drum n� bass is evident on both Custodian Discount and Wabby Legs, on which the addition of African drums come as another welcome surprise.

Every Day is possibly the most conventional electronica tune on the CD. Going through various phases, in parts it even sounds like some of the instrumental passages from another group of innovators – Joy Division. The ending is fast-paced with James making the electronic wizardry at his disposal sound like a chorus of guitars.

The collection ends with Arched Maid Via RDJ, another track which uses sampled voices. A frustrated housewife can be heard mocking her husband for his insistence on her making sure his best shirt is ironed and ready, all of this over a melodic tune and some killer beats which it would be physically impossible to dance to.


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AFX – Hangable Auto Bulb


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