Released in April of 1995, ...I Care Because You Do is the third studio album Richard D. James recorded under the Aphex Twin moniker and it marks the end of his initial analog era. It’s also the crowning achievement in the Aphex Twin canon. Veering from his previous acid house, ambient and general techno undertakings, James builds compositions out of lengthy and intricate drum machine loops, elaborately layered analog synths and intermittent string pieces. The final product comes off like a Replicant dance-party. Never one to take his art too seriously, James infuses ...I Care Because You Do with in-jokes and innuendos. “Ventolin,” named after an asthma medicine, is one of the harshest tracks on the album and features a high-pitch frequency that mimics symptoms of tinnitus; “Alberto Balsalm” is named for a British line of hair care products; “Come On You Slags” samples dialog from a pornographic film. Additionally, several of the song titles are anagrams: Aphex Twin is reworked as “Wax the Nip,” The Aphex Twin morphs into “The Waxen Pith,” “Wet Tip Hen Ax,” and “Next Heap With,” and Richard David James becomes “Acrid Avid Jam Shred.” ...I Care Because You Do’s equal infatuation with hip-hop rhythms and melodic counterpoint provides an effective bridge between his pioneering early releases and the cunning explorations of his later work. As much as the front cover self-portrait captures a snapshot of the artist’s own image, the music inside provides a glimpse of an artist on the cusp of an invigorating new period of sound experimentation, but still producing his unique blend of melancholy and aggression at an elite level. Generally seen as one of the quintessential IDM releases of all time (and once named by Q Magazine as one of the top 20 loudest albums of all time), the album finds a middle ground between Phillip Glass and the Wu-Tang Clan. Fans of either will not be disappointed.
In a career full of brilliant, groundbreaking music, the Richard D. James Album remains Aphex Twin’s drill ’n’ bass masterpiece. It was James’ fourth and most widely popular full-length to date upon its original 1996 release, and reinvented the artist as a commanding influence on like-minded groups such as Radiohead who were tiring of the guitar/bass/drums format. Moving even further away from his ambient and acid house beginnings, the album matches James’s trademark fragile, slow-moving melodies with harsh, quick breakbeats. When it was released, fellow electronic artists such as Orbital and Underworld had just begun to filter moderate amounts of drum ’n’ bass in their work, but the Richard D. James Album was more extreme than virtually all jungle at the time. Autobiographical in nature, it employs electronic sounds, pulsating rhythms and non-musical samples to convey the author’s feelings on childhood innocence, evidenced in tracks like “To Cure a Weakling Child,” “Boy/Girl Song” and “Cornish Acid” (a nod to his Cornish background and upbringing). Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis said of the album: “James has turned inward for inspiration, painting aural pictures of real and imagined scenes from his West Country childhood.” Stylistically, the Richard D. James Album is in the mode of “elektronische music” and relies only on sounds generated electronically, while continuing James’s implementation of “musique concrète” ideas by manipulating human voices, physical instruments and environmental sounds via sampling, distortion and looping. The album continues to gain high marks from music critics, ranking 40th on Pitchfork’s Top 100 Albums of the 1990s and 55th on NME’s Top 100 Albums of All Time. A peculiar and personal work, the Richard D. James Album is a modern classic which offers the same thrill on the first listen as the hundredth.
This fall, trumpeter and composer Josef Leimberg will launch his debut full-length Astral Progressions. Hitting vinyl prints and digital formats with the Alpha Pup Records jazz imprint World Galaxy, Astral Progressions is a powerful record in the canon of 21st century music. It also continues the momentum Leimberg achieved on the Kendrick Lamar Grammy Award-winning album To Pimp A Butterfly. A hybrid state of jazz fusion, world music, R&B and golden era hip hop instrumentalism. Josef Leimberg has created a rich tapestry of sound that fits right in with the resurgence of progressive music in the 2010’s, launching out on his own terms after an impressive career of guest work. Leimberg gained a unique level of traction with his work on the multiple Grammy Award-winning Kendrick Lamar LP To Pimp A Butterfly. Credited under the LoveDragon moniker with Terrace Martin, his time with To Pimp A Butterfly only represents a small fragment of his accomplishments. His collaborative resume over the decades is astounding, consisting of production, writing and feature credits with Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Robin Thicke, Shafiq Husayn, Funkadelic, Freestyle Fellowship, Dr. Dre, Murs, King Tee, Suga Free, Saafir and Busdriver. These connections have undoubtedly spread life all over Astral Progressions. Leimberg’s debut album features an array of innovators and game changers in modern progressive music. Kamasi Washington, Bilal, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Kurupt, Terrace Martin and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson are just a small list of the brilliant minds that make the Astral Progressions outing special. Many of the featured artists became with the LP through world renowned creator Shafiq Husayn. Leimberg would connect with various musicians associated to his camp through studio recordings, gigging and rehearsals, building on his compositions in a very organic and social way. Kurupt connects with Astral Progression’s cosmic message unlike anything else he’s done before, lending his verbal talents over a cosmic west coast flavor. Georgia Anne Muldrow and Bilal add considerable weight as well, taking direction into spiritually tinged fusions of R&B and soul. The ending track pays special homage to Leimberg’s mother, including a recording of her speaking about the complexities of life and where we all fit into the bigger picture of this universe. To describe this record in full would take volumes of thought, bridged under the vision of Leimberg in every note and measure. Leimberg takes the sonic power of Astral Progressions back to the origins of the ‘70s jazz fusion movement. Included is a superb Miles Davis cover of ‘Lonely Fire.’ Originally recorded and featured on the 1970s Miles Davis studio album Big Fun, Leimberg revamps the spiritually tinged piece with uptempo pocket driven drum work, flaring solo’s and a sense of heightened energy that transforms the chord arrangements of the original into something entirely new. Paul Livingston adds lush sitar, tambura and sarod, bringing the Indian influences shed on the original composition into the 21st century state of Leimberg’s vision. It’s a perfect summation of how organic, fluid and exotic the record is as a whole. The artwork and design packaging pulls back to the narrative of prolific album cover work that enhanced many of the world’s most celebrated jazz fusion albums. Artwork created by Tokio Aoyama, the vibrant color schemes intertwine into deeply interwoven symbols, coalescing to form a powerful story before a single note is even heard. Taking the influence his father, mother and communities of musicians around him, Astral Progressions is a record that summarizes the long lasting power of love through sound. Josef Leimberg is a part of the movement that’s creating new standards in the exploration of jazz and fusion. He is defining himself as a worthy composer and purveyor of the deep musical arts and Astral Progressions is just the beginning.