Aphex Twin for kids?! You seem to have forgotten his face (grimacing), his smile (sardonic), his samples (nightmarish), and his beats (violent)!
Sure, but isn't his art as schizophrenic as a children's story? His style combines horror and wonder, dread and sweetness... Think of those sweet melodies that turn in on themselves as refrains, and the unstructured, mutant, and violent rhythms that accompany them. It’s all as vague and ambivalent as a dream. In fact, some of his pieces are composed using waking dream therapy. This is how he finds these peaceful melodies, infinitely distant, but never that far from the edge of our nightmares…
His genius is that he is able to capture the dance of our unconscious minds. This is the reason why childhood permeates his music, and why his music is so fascinating, even if we can’t quite put our finger on why...
A reminder of childhood is present in his stage name. The “Twin” is a tribute to his brother who was stillborn a few years before Richard D. James was born. But that’s only a hint. In reality, for him, music replaced childhood games. “I remember with horror the day when my best friend refused to play toy soldiers and cars with me, telling me that we were too old for that. I was gobsmacked. I needed a replacement so I started drawing. Then music became essential.”
Writing music is the kind of therapy that allows you to create your own world, leaving Earth, and travelling back in time… “My toy cars and toy soldiers fulfilled that role for a long time,” he explains. “Then, at around ten, I started having fun with my tape recorder, recording the sounds around me, without telling anyone. That's always how I see my music – a game, just for me.”
It’s for this reason that the success of his music came as a shock. He might be less surprised to learn how much his music resonates with children, however. Children seem to understand Aphex Twin better than adults. It was by watching my kids having fun, dancing, and being moved by some of his compositions that I discovered its magic.
These days I'm less surprised when I hear James saying, “music is (...) my comforter, my cosy refuge.” One’s inner child can pick that up intuitively in his music.
And, if it might not be obvious at first, you will soon discover the giant teddy bears hopping in the video for Donkey Rhubarb. Your child might be a little afraid, of course – mainly because of the bear’s face – but they might also find the ambiguous smile fascinating. It might remind them of the stories they made up for themselves. Richard D. James will then have another twin. Another, among millions…The next day, upon waking, your child's face will have disappeared behind their new idol. All you have to do is run away before they see you. Quick!