This was Richard D. James third release, but his first studio album under the pseudonym of Aphex Twin. WK This collection consists “of instrumental, occasionally radio-friendly songs that were mostly beat-oriented.” WK Most of the work dates back to his pre-club DJ years of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, WK but it was exposure on the club scene which garnered him enough of an underground following to prompt this album’s release.
As a “watershed of ambient music” JB the album “reveals no influences and sounds unlike anything that preceded it, due in large part to the effects James managed to wrangle from his supply of home-manufactured contraptions.” JB “The songs are faster and more percussion-oriented than many of the earlier ambient creations of other musicians such as Brian Eno.” WK
“Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is a desperately sparse album: thin percussion and several haunted-synth lines are the only components on most songs.” JB However, there are exceptions. We Are the Music Makers includes a sample of “a line of dialogue from the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” WK “Xtal has samples of female vocalizing as well as alternating ambient sounds, both repeated intermittently throughout the song. Tha has clips of several people…talking, while Actium has samples of what sound like squeaking shoes in a hallway.” WK “Green Calx contains samples from RoboCop” WK and “a faint sample of the vocal from ‘Fodderstompf’ by Public Image Ltd, as well as from the opening titles of John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing.” WK
“The sound quality is relatively poor; it was recorded direct to cassette tape and reportedly suffered a mangling job by a cat.” JB “The prodigious James would preview new material to his friends on cassette as they drove around Cornwall. A few tracks on the album have apparently been mastered from these cassettes, resulting in truncated beginnings and endings and a low fidelity sound.” WK Remasterings have given the album a better overall sound quality.
“David M. Pecoraro of Pitchfork Media calls it ‘among the most interesting music ever created with a keyboard and a computer.’ Rolling Stone called the album ‘majestic,’ and the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll claims the album was received by critics as ‘an ambient masterpiece comparable to work by The Orb and Brian Eno.’ Warp Records has billed this as ‘the birthplace and the benchmark of modern electronic music’ and has stated that ‘every home should have a copy.’” WK