Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pump Up The Volume

Aphex Twin - Analogue Bubblebath 3
Caustic Window - Cunt

Back in the days before the internet we used to have these things called books. If you wanted to know something, you looked it up. This was fine up to a point, but it was hard trying to find up-to-date information on your favourite musical artists. If they weren’t featured in the music magazines, you were reliant on snippets of info given by DJ’s when the tracks were played on the radio. This was frustrating to say the least.

Then along came Volume, a forward thinking UK-based label who in the early 1990s came up with the cunning idea of releasing compilation CD’s which came with free booklets containing interviews, pictures and trivia on all the featured artists. The first compilations, released under the ‘Volume’ name featured a mixture of indie and electronic acts. ‘Volume One’ for example had Throwing Muses and New Order rubbing shoulders with The Orb and The Shamen, while ‘Volume Two’ featured Lush, Blur, Pulp, Nine Inch Nails and Curve – all seminal names in early 90s music.

In September 1993, to capitalise on the growing popularity of dance music, Volume released the first instalment of ‘Trance Europe Express’, which featured tracks from the cream of the ambient, techno, house and electronic artists of the period. I can remember buying ‘Trance Europe Express Volume One’ and reading the article for each artist while their specific track was playing. It was a heavenly experience for a geek like me, both ears and brain sated with fine sounds and cutting edge information and images. The articles were always enthusiastically written and well researched and were often the first ever features done on the artists. Volume also offered a subscription service so you didn’t even have to leave your front room if you didn’t want to.

Obviously the internet has now rendered this innovation redundant, but the music and booklets of the ‘Trance Europe Express’ series are fantastic documents of a great period for dance music. With all these top tunes at my disposal, I’m sure I’ll be returning to the TEX’ series for some future posts, but for now here’s a couple of exclusives from Richard D. James, unreleased elsewhere as far as I’m aware. ‘Analogue Bubblebath 3’ was featured on ‘TEX Volume One’ and is a dark soundscape of paranoid ambience, all whispering voices and eerie chords. From ‘TEX Volume Three’ is the charmingly titled ‘Cunt’, an uncompromising mash-up of harsh drums and distorted acid recorded under Richard’s most abrasive alter ego, Caustic Window. There’s a brilliant article on Aphex contained in the booklet for ‘TEX3’, detailing his performance at the 1994 Ravestock Festival in the US. Richard played a rare live set, appearing after Deee-Lite, described as “…an intense cacophony of distortion and confusion, giving way to layers of frighteningly beautiful sound.” It’s a shame he only brings his laptop out to play these days, the full-on Aphex live experience is something to behold.

Full Volume discography
Buy Aphex Twin from Warpmart