Not that he'd bother himself with this sort of thing anymore
Improbably, it all comes back to The Lemonheads. Chirpy crackhead Evan Dando and his bandmates had done no wrong, you understand, in requesting an Aphex Twin remix back in 1993; but when the malevolent Cornish techno-brainiac forgot about the mix altogether, and handed in some hardcore insanity of his own creation passed off as a reworking, it summed up Richard D James’ general attitude to remixing.
Ten years later, we get ’26 Mixes For Cash’ – two CDs of reworkings from 1990 to 2003, its attitude expressed utterly in its title. If the composaholic, release-phobic Richard D James gives it any thought at all now, it’s probably to laugh at the trainspotter saps cursing the devaluation of their back catalogue.
It is testament to the best part of a lifetime spent creating extraordinary sounds from a unique template – the vast majority of which we’re never going to hear – that nothing on ’26 Mixes…’ sounds dated. Indeed, there’s a very apparent correlation between the earliest track on here, 1990’s migraine rave job on Mescalinum United’s ‘We Have Arrived’, and this year’s spectacular Acid Edit of his infamous ‘Windowlicker’.
In Aphex‘s opinion, remixing pals’ tracks for peanuts is a lot more fun than stripmining some indie muppets’ hopeless dithering for the titular big bucks. But while his labelmates and proteges are represented in bulk here – DMX Krew, Baby Ford and Cylob among them – you know he respects them a little too much to afford them a cold-eyed butchering. Baby Ford’s ‘Normal’ rules with an acid fist, certainly, but it did in the first place.
Effectively, the more cash at stake the less effort Aphex puts into honouring the spirit of the artist – an often hilarious greenie in the face of pop careerism. The real fun starts when the big names offer themselves: Nine Inch Nails are ‘remixed’ twice here, the scowling muse of Trent Reznor featuring on neither occasion. In effect, then, you have two more Aphex originals (good ones, too). It’s like watching Formula One and waiting for the high-speed crashes, and often it’s about as tuneful.
There are occasions when Richard’s modus operandi is relatively conservative. Take the mix of Seefeel’s ‘Time To Find Me’: a fairly agreeable 50:50 meeting point between the washy ambience of those half-forgotten shoegazers and Aphex‘s own clanky beats. On the occasions where circumstances restrain Mr Twin, the end product suffers. A farcical chain of events ended up with Richard given only four hours to rejig Phillip Glass and David Bowie‘s ‘Heroes’ symphony, and the result is a pleasant enough dash through classical electronic pastures and little more.
That the bottom eventually dropped out of the ridiculous ‘indie remix’ market is cause to be thankful, but you’d have to be very precious not to smirk at the idea of, say, a drill’n’bass tactical nuking of The Vines‘ ‘Get Free’. Not that he’d bother himself with this sort of thing anymore, but in its own way the brutally applied middle finger of the Aphex Twin is more valuable now than ever.