Aphex Twin’s “Vordhosbn” just got a surprising video reveal, showing how the track was made. So let’s revisit trackers and 90s underground music culture.
You’re probably familiar with the term “white label,” but where did that term originate?”? Back in the early days of DJing, DJs were very territorial about their crate digging. Sometimes, in order to avoid rival DJs looking at their decks to ID their selections (this is way before the days of Shazam, remember), DJs would rip off the labels of a particularly rare record, leaving the white label residue with no identifying information.
Similarly, the 90s were an interesting time for music production. With the advent of computer sequencers, music became more complex – and in the wild west days before YouTube tutorials, concert phone vids, and everyone using Ableton Live, there was legitimate mystery behind how some of the most complex electronic music was made. Max? SuperCollider? Some homebrew software unavailable to the plebs?
If mystery in electronic music production was a game in the 90s, then Richard D. James was its undisputed winner. As Aphex Twin and a host of other pseudonyms, he created mind-bending sequences. As an interview subject, he was equal parts prankster and cagey. Sure, there was an idea of what the IDM greats were up to – Autechre and Plaid used Max, Squarepusher used Reaktor, Aphex used…something? The mystery has always been part of James’ appeal – here is a man who has claimed to sleep only four hours a night, or to have built or heavily modified all of his hardware, or to be sitting on hundreds if not thousands of unreleased tracks, among other tall tales.
Around 2014, something flipped with Richard D. James. After releasing Syro, his first album in 13 years as Aphex Twin, he unleashed the floodgates with a massive hard drive dump onto SoundCloud – seems he wasn’t lying about all those tracks after all. Following up with this, today you can see the debut of a custom Bleep store for Aphex Twin, including loads of unreleased bonus tracks to go with his albums.