Polygon Window

Surfing on Sine Waves

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Call it ironic that the Aphex Twin's first U.S. album release was under a pseudonym, but given the many names Mr. James has used over the course of his career, perhaps it's just as well. Regardless of name or intent, on Surfing on Sine Waves he serves up a great collection of abstract electronic/dance madness, caught somewhere between the driftiness of his more ambient works at the time and the rave-minded nuttiness of "Digeridoo." The opening track, "Polygon Window," plants its feet firmly in both camps, with a brisk series of beats playing against the slightly dark, slightly quirky keyboard sounds with which the Twin first made his name. It's a good harbinger for the rest of Surfing on Sine Waves, which satisfies, if not always astonishes, like Aphex does at his best. "Quoth," the single from the album, is a great dancefloor pounder; though not as exultant and slowly building as "Digeridoo," it does makes its point with bluntness and power, consisting nearly solely of drums and percussion samples. "Quino Phec" is the album-ending counterpart; it's a mostly calm composition with only slight drums low in a mix that floats along inoffensively enough. The trademark wiggy humor of the Twin crops up at points as well, with the distorted video game robot voice on "UT1 - Dot" intoning something about "electronic techno music" being one of the more noticeable examples. Surfing on Sine Waves is more a diversion in the end than anything else, not quite Aphex-by-numbers but not one of his great leaps forward either. Newcomers would do better with the Classics and Selected Ambient Works 85-92 compilations first, when it comes to recordings from this time period.

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