Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Why This Iconic Aphex Twin Album Remains Relevant 30 Years On

Released in March 1994 by Aphex Twin, “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” serves as the sequel to the critically acclaimed “Selected Ambient Works 85–92.”

Recognised as the “second greatest ambient album of all time” by Pitchfork in 2016, I explore the captivating 24-track album and share some insight into two of my favourite ambient works of all time.

Aphex Twin is an Irish-born British musician, composer and DJ known for his idiosyncratic work in electronic styles such as techno, ambient, and jungle.

Divergence in Sound

Differing notably from its predecessor, Volume II features lengthy, textured ambient compositions with minimal percussion and sporadic vocal samples. It maintains a consistent ambient atmosphere throughout, devoid of high-energy moments or genre deviations.

Richard David James, known professionally as Aphex Twin, stated that the sounds on “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” were inspired by lucid dreams, and that upon awaking, he would attempt to re-create the sounds and record them. He claimed to have natural synaesthesia, which contributed to this album.

“listening to Selected Ambient Works Volume II is like standing in a power station on acid.” – Aphex Twin

Nameless Journeys

With 24 tracks spanning a total running time of 2 hours and 36 minutes, “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” offers a journey of thought-provoking reflection. Absent of named tracks, listeners are invited to interpret and personalise their own experiences with each piece.

The Impact of #3

Among the album’s standout compositions is “#3,” which has amassed over 62 million streams on Spotify alone. This track encapsulates pure atmospheric bliss, evoking emotions of longing, hope, and introspection.

Its gentle progression and instrumentation resonate deeply with listeners, offering a profound emotional connection.

Unveiling the Intricacies of #20

Each listener will have their favorite track as they traverse through the album. For many, “#20” holds a special place. With a haunting chord progression that resonates through the mind, body, and soul, it evokes a sense of familiarity.

Some argue that the single draws inspiration from Brian Eno’s ‘An Ending (Ascent),’ another iconic composer in the field of ambient music. However no matter how this track resonates with you, it’s a feeling that should be embraced and enjoyed with every second.

Aphex Twin’s Enduring Influence

Aphex Twin, renowned for his genre-spanning creations, has left an indelible mark on music. From immersive techno to contemplative ambient works, his talent for crafting emotive soundscapes is unparalleled.

“Selected Ambient Works Volume II” stands as a testament to his artistry and is destined to remain a cherished piece in music history.

“‘Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II is an album that readily serves as background music to its own telling.” – Marc Weidenbaum

The Legacy

As we reflect on the legacy of “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” three decades since its release, it’s clear that Aphex Twin’s vision continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.

Through its ethereal compositions and evocative ambiance, this album remains a timeless masterpiece, and one of my personal favourite albums of all time.

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