100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #7 Aphex Twin – Ptolemy

Released : 1992

The decade’s most influential electronic music artist/producer, Richard D. James nineties catalogue is almost unrivaled, from the bristling hardcore techno of him as Polygon Window, the undulating rave classic Didgeridoo to Windowlicker’s acid skronk and Come To Daddy’s nightmare fueling drillcore.

The scope of this maverick creative genius renders the excercise of picking a definitive track both futile and near meaningless, but this is the gig here, so a choice has to be made. Whilst some of the myth making around how James composed has been debunked since, there is a magical quality to Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – recorded on primitive home made equipment whilst he was barely into his teens – which the more others tried to copy, the wider the margin of error became.

James started out as a DJ at beach parties in Cornwall has said that the tunes on SAW are just those him and his friends enjoyed listening to most in the aftermath. And yet for something made so casually it’s still truly remarkable that the hisses, pops and almost dub-like spaciousness have given the material an enduring otherworldly texture that’s hugely resonant even thirty years later. Ptolemy is arguably the collection’s most straightforward number, a melodiously fizzing acid house rival to the darkness of 808 State’s Hacienda filling Cubik: restless and visionary, this was musical DIY from the fourth dimension.