Richard D. James Album (Warp)
As far back as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with music. It’s shaped me probably more than anything else in my life. So choosing a favorite album is a difficult task. I have hundreds of favorites for different moods, places, or specific people I’m spending time with. But I can think of one album that had a deeply profound impact not only on the type of music I listened to but how I approached the idea of what a song is in the first place.
In high school I was deeply immersed in the underground noise-punk sound that revolved around bands like Unwound, The Jesus Lizard, Brainiac and Fugazi. I played in bands that tried to emulate that sound and went to all of the all-ages shows around L.A. that I could. That changed one day when I was 17. I was happily scanning the CD bins at the now defunct Aron’s Records on Highland Avenue in Hollywood (one of my favorite records stores). Over the store PA I heard the most beautifully disjointed string samples and beats. It was a completely alien sound, unlike anything I had heard before. It was electronic but had an edge that propelled it beyond mere synth Muzak or club dance music and into the realm of high art. I immediately rushed to the store clerk to ask what they were playing. It was “Girl/Boy Song,” Aphex Twin’s masterful dissection of an orchestral suite colliding head-on with glitchy, experimental jungle beats (from the LP Richard D. James Album). I immediately bought the CD and became a super-fan overnight. Bizarrely charged tracks like “4,” “Cornish Acid,” and “Yellow Calx” redefined music for me. It was music that was simultaneously fun, thought provoking, edgy, and intelligent. Almost danceable, but not quite. It was the perfect introduction to modern electronic music for me and it had me putting my guitar down and instead playing with music creation software like Sonic Foundry’s Acid and later DAWs like Propellerhead’s Reason and Ableton Live. I started going to underground raves and even becoming a DJ. It was also a bridge to more conventional genres of dance music like house and techno. It put me on a journey that I’m still on today.
I feel like Adult Karate is me trying to make sense of my dual musical backgrounds; trying to get the magnetically opposed genres of noisy punk/post rock and dance/electronic music talking to each other. And I credit Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album, a masterpiece that still sounds fresh today, for creating that path for me. He proved to me that dance music could be taken seriously. Dance music could be art.
Adult Karate plays with the Gillum Bros, Rihana Terrell and Raidosa at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 at Skinny’s Bar & Lounge.