The name Rephlex Records might be a mystery to most people, but the label’s sound certainly isn’t. The imprint set up by Richard ‘Aphex Twin’ James and Grant Wilson-Claridge a decade ago in deepest Cornwall – initially to release material by the ever-prolific James – is the techno equivalent of the catwalks of Milan and Paris. Its creations might be outlandish and avant-garde,
but one way or another they eventually filter down to the high street. Don’t believe us? Well, Madonna has famously asked James to work with her, Canadian-resident and Rephlex artist Bogdan Raczynski has contributed to the next Björk album and you don’t need to be an advanced musicologist to work out that Radiohead must have digested a healthy share of Rephlex’s output as they were putting together last year’s ‘Kid A’ album.
This album is a 16-track voyage through Rephlex’s back-catalogue (over 100 releases
and counting), and a chance for the uninitiated
to sample the label self-styled ‘braindance’ aesthetic. Described by Claridge as “a way of life” rather than a musical style, braindance is actually just a term to describe people who take James’s own mischievous electronica as their starting point before they push off into the ether. The result is music that’s consistently challenging, eclectic and, well, actually rather funny.
On this compilation there’s the hilarious electro-doom of DMX Krew’s ‘The Glass Room’ with its deadpan vocoder lyrics (“I’m dreaming of a million ways to die”) and the demented electro seasickness of Vibert Simmonds’ ‘(This Can) Robotic’. Elsewhere, there are excellent introductions to some of the label’s more established stars – Leila’s dark and disorientating ‘Don’t Fall Asleep’, Bogdan Raczynski’s hiccupping drum’n’bass track ‘Death To The Natives’, the hectic ambience of Squarepusher’s Chaos AD alter ego and, perhaps best of all, µ-Ziq’s epic, pulsating masterpiece ‘Swan Vesta’.
All of which adds up to a perfect starting point for anyone wishing to become more closely acquainted with Rephlex’s unique musical armoury. Braindance might have already infiltrated your life without you knowing it, but this is a chance to experience it first hand in all its weird, Technicolor glory. In the absence of a new Aphex record, it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.