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Selected Ambient Works II


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Vinyl, April 17, 2012
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Product Details

  • Vinyl (April 17, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: 1972
  • ASIN: B0071AGVR8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,697 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Aphex Twin's 1994 masterpiece Selected Ambient Works Volume II includes barely anything resembling a beat or any sign of typical song structure, yet the album continues to garner adulation generally reserved for holy music. Fans have been testifying on its behalf for nearly two decades, as if it were capable of curing ills or healing the soul. Its synthetic construction belies the intuitive, human, melancholic and uplifting nature of the music. Some have speculated the album was intended by Aphex Twin's Richard D. James as a farce, as if its ++ber-minimalism was a joke played on an electronic community that relied so heavily on the beat; an expectation-defying statement from ambient-house's young hero. The album induces varied responses and often from the same person. A listener may go from being incredulous to drenched in tears within the span of a single track. Music critic Frank Owen described the music as "veering between an eerie beauty and an almost nightmarish desolation." James himself described it as "like standing in a power station on acid." The album's raw emotional power is built upon the influences of Brian Eno, Erik Satie, Steve Reich, Terry Riley and The Orb. Each of its tracks has an elegiac and desolate feel far removed from the tooth-rattling, drill-'n'-bass or abstract electronica for which James was originally known. The soft, nimble flow leaves one in a tranquilized state. Throughout the album, James resists the temptation to layer the sound with beats or samples. Instead, he relies on swathes of sound and harmonics and almost-implied pulses. When the music does incorporate subtle industrial sounds, rhythmic drums or muted samples, it is only to affect a menacing feel in the textures. Remarkably, for an album that is often perceived as difficult, Selected Ambient Works Volume II is quite accessible. Featured in films, commercials and video games, the music continues to offer an entry point for listeners new to the ambient genre while remaining a classic touted by connoisseurs.

Customer Reviews

Enter Richard D. James i.e. the Aphex Twin.
Greg Jackson
This is a must buy album for anyone who likes electronic music, and is willing to invest a bit of time into it.
Timothy Dodds
The music is at times eerie, beautiful, achingly sad, and downright scary.
Scott Wejmar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Michael Paulsen on March 20, 2001
Format: Audio CD
As when this collection was released in 1994, SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOL. II continues to confound techno fans and musicologists alike. Richard James working under his most famous guise, Aphex Twin, released this collection which is still one of the most significant electronic albums ever released and, yes, RDJ is both a genius and a calculated, smart-arsed iconoclast, but a con-artist he ain't. Many people appear to be so outraged by this album (what no song titles? where are the hum-along melodies? where are the dance beats?) that they are prone to ridicule it with knee jerk 1-star reviews -- you can almost visualize the terror in their eyes when their notions of music have been turned upside-down by this album. Frequently devoid of percussion, the musicscapes and tone poems found here are a mix of the profoundly beautiful, terrifying and dissonant. This album is for anyone with enough musical sense to look beyond standard pop music structure and dance beats and a willingness to explore darker, abstract and frequently microtonal electronic music like you've never heard before. If you can appreciate Xenakis, John Cage, Brian Eno, Stockhausen and other early electronic/ambient/avant-garde pioneers then this album is a must. Granted, a few tracks are downright grating, but even they have their place on this album. Now that electronica is a bonafide genre choked with literally thousands of subpar artists and compilations, this album stands as a rare, mind-altering jewel ... now more than ever.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By desktoprobotics@hotmail.com on April 30, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Listening to Select Ambient Works Volume II is without a doubt an un-earthly experience. If you have ever wondered what aliens listen to in their lesure time, purchase this cd and you will know. The soft, weightless, flow of some of the tracks leave you in an almost traqualized state. The fluidly sequenced rhythms and beats, along with the unexplainable voices and alienesque sounds are at times a bit erie. This is definitely music to relax, study, write, or sleep to. When I first purchased this album, I was a bit displeased, but after a week or two it began to grow on me. This cd is very theraputic and at times can leave you feeling druged and numb. If you are stressed, depressed, angry, or sad, this cd can make everything dissapear. If you ever feel like drifting away, just slip this cd in and your mind will travel to far off places, where aliens lurk in the shadows, studying your every move. Richard D. James is by far the most talented, versital, mind-blowing knob twiddler in the electronic/ambient genre. Every Richard D. James cd I have purchased, whether its Aphex Twin, Caustic/Polygon Window, or Afx, he never ceises to amaze me. He will always continue to be #1 on my electronic music roster.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By FuliginCloak on November 15, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Once in a while, once in a very rare while, you hear something that forever changes the way you understand music. Buried amongst Aphex Twin's array of brilliant releases waits this little time bomb. The first time I listened to this in entirety, I was first incredulous, but it went on and on, pulling me deeper into this strange world it wove. By the time the last track had ended, I awoke on the floor, the computer humming in the distance. For the first time I noticed the musical way the fan grated in its casing. I am not sure if I cried; I am not sure if I slept; all that I really knew was that I had found music. Everything up until that point in time had been a prelude for this precise moment, this set of vast sounds.
I spent years chasing the sound. I purchased every Aphex Twin album I could get my hands on, tore into a world of experimental sound that I hadn't even known existed. In the years since then and now, I have found (and continue to find) a wonderful, vast stage of sonic exploration. I have been everywhere from Merzbow's exploding aeroplanes to the lowercase sound of barely audible whistling kettles and 16khz frequencies -- but I have yet to find anything even remotely on the same level of raw emotional power that Selected Ambient Works 2 has somehow bottled up and caged like some wild beast in a slumber.
Where will this take you? Well, that is why it is so potent. It will take you as deep as you mentally and emotionally can. For some, this will be a spiritual experience, for others, a cold terror, or a stolen tear. Others still might find all of the above and more. Do not expect anything, and for goodness sakes do not expect a miracle. At best, you'll get a nightmare.
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53 of 61 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Showalter on August 11, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Again, there are no beats.
There is nothing resembling a beat. Nor song structure. Nor anything you've heard before....
I've read that James put together this album as something of a joke on critics and people who thought that the first volume of this was as minimalist as things some. Together with Autechre's Tri Repeatae++, this is the most inhuman music that I've ever heard. It is out of this world different, and that is a good thing.
You want to dance to this, you'd better have some good... This is chill out, meditational, semi-holy music good for periods of lucidity. Its like rocks talking to you, it is like a space probe from genius coming down to Indiana....
it takes time. Don't buy this if you're not going to give it a chance, don't buy it if you're not willing to let it settle. YOU WILL HAVE WASTED YOUR MONEY! If all of these conditions are fulfilled, get used to it and let yourself fall half asleep. It will change you.
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