This year, the usual conveyor belt of festival headliners was reinvigorated by some new faces.
Frank Ocean entered the fold (after a few false starts), Solange debuted her beautifully choreographed new live show and Aphex Twin emerged from the shadows for a string of major performances across Europe and America.
With such a rich history of disappearing, nobody was sure where AFX had been or – more importantly – what he’d been listening to. As the sets unfolded, r/Aphex Twin and RDJ’s colossal online fan community began unpicking every selection.
Though he’s been active and influential for almost three decades, Aphex Twin’s sets have always shown an artist with an ear to the future – playing tracks by young producers, current experimentalists and artists who reflect his playful, boundary-pushing attitude.
Here, five electronic producers who have had their tunes played by Aphex in the last 12 months talk about the experience and celebrate the lasting impact of his self-governed art.
PowellAphex Played: Rider at Day For Night Festival 2016, Houston
“It’s difficult not to know when Aphex is playing: the internet basically breaks. I think I got a message on Twitter or something when it was happening. But I occasionally email him because we have some mutual friends and he sent me a pic of Powell tracks in his digital record box or something so I was secretly hoping it might happen.
He’s been doing this for 25 years. Our culture prioritises short-term fixes and relentlessly trades in trends and fads but RDJ sits outside of all of that. I think it’s more important than ever not to get caught up in all the crap that music can ask of an artist today. To look back after 25 years and have a catalogue like that? To never engage with the bullshit? To basically be invisible? To let the music do the talking? I think that’s very inspirational.”
Chino AmobiAphex Played: WARSZAWA at Field Day 2017, London
“I’ve played some his ambient works during sets before. I found out he’d played my music when someone tagged me in a post on Twitter. The consistency of his fragmented pop visual aesthetic is something that resonates with me.
Him playing my music accelerated my preoccupation with depersonalisation. I think he has successfully done what he wants to do the way he wants to do it throughout his career and younger artists identify with that. Especially with the way he has branded it.”
FisAphex Played: Patupaiarehe (Original Mix) at Primavera Sound 2017, Barcelona
“I found out through unprecedented heat in the inbox. I was quite cut off from his work where I grew up in New Zealand. I was two when Selected Ambient Works came out, and since I started producing I’ve been too consumed by it to really pay proper attention elsewhere but I’m catching up slowly!
It was nice for me to see as I think some had assumed my music was too challenging for broad audiences who brought a limiting, conservative imagination towards it. That’s been an over-thought, self-fulfilling prophecy clouding the waters, which never really had any basis in the music itself. Aphex has destroyed that veil completely though. I appreciate that, the space feels open now and I’d been waiting for that.”
MachinedrumAphex Played: Clissold VIP at NOS Primavera Sound 2017, Porto
“The first video I saw was sent to me by a fan on my birthday a few years ago. It’s Aphex playing my tune Fantastix in Sydney. I freaked out!
Aphex has been an inspiration from early on. There was no one making music like him, and it remains that way. I loved how he combined beautifully written music with technically innovative programming and production mixed with a nice amount of humour. In a way his music kinda fucked me up when I was a teenager in the 90s, suddenly I couldn’t listen to anything that wasn’t nearly as complex and forward-thinking.
A part of me had a sigh of relief to know that I’ve been working hard on music for such a long time and that someone that I looked up to so much was validating me. The other part of me was freaking out and smiling ear to ear, kinda like those insane Aphex portraits. I can’t speak for younger artists today, but maybe back then his music was much more interesting than anything else that was available. Especially to someone like me who didn’t grow up in rave culture, or any kind of electronic music culture, it just stood out amongst all the “electronica” that was starting to become popular in the US in the 90s.”
AcreAphex Played: Physically at Forbidden Fruit 2017, Dublin
“I had no idea until about a week later when one of my friends sent me a YouTube clip that someone recorded on their phone. If he didn’t find that video I probably still wouldn’t know it happened. Not gonna lie, I did start screaming for a bit. It was totally unexpected. Quite a few people congratulated me about it which I found pretty funny.
I used to listen to his stuff quite a lot growing up, one of the earliest memories I have is watching the Rubber Johnny video on some weird website that didn’t credit Aphex or Chris Cunningham so for the first minute or so I thought it was real, the 15-16-year-old me was pretty disturbed! I also recreated Avril 14th in MIDI once for a laugh and spent ages changing the sounds. I think Aphex has definitely influenced me in some way just because I spent so much time listening to his music growing up.”