Notes from user48736353001

Joey Hill

Last week, an as yet unknown individual began posting dozens of tracks onto the audio platform SoundCloud under the name “user48736353001.” The music, currently just over 120 songs, was first brought to the Internet’s attention when the user commented on the SoundCloud page of notable electronic artist Richard D. James, also known as Aphex Twin.

A giant in many genres of electronic music, James’ early work in ambient techno and drum ‘n’ bass music has created standards many contemporary DJs strive to meet, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that a lesser known DJ was contacting him and talking about their work. The user stated that they had been making tracks similar to James’ in the early ‘90s and planned to release a number of them. James’ replied that he would “love to hear more,” and so it began.

The tracks themselves began to grow in popularity after James promoted them on his page. It was soon after that fans began to consider the tracks to have been created by James himself, and user48736353001was simply another pseudonym under which he was releasing music.

James already has a reputation for working under many different aliases, his most notable being Aphex Twin. Last year he released “Syro,” an interesting album met with high expectations as it was the first release under the Aphex Twin name in 13 years.

“Syro” in many ways sounded like a direct continuation of Aphex Twin’s 2001 album “drukQs,” since James gradually worked on “Syro” for more than a decade. Some tracks sounded like they were actually produced in 1998 and James had simply forgotten about them. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and fans of Aphex Twin found the album to be in keeping with the ambient yet slightly violent and aggressive sound that had become the British DJ’s signature.

After this release, it was easy for fans to look at the tracks of user48736353001with much greater attention to detail. The statements made by the user saying that the material was mainly composed in the early ‘90s made some fans believe that James had simply released more tracks that he had stashed away from his early years. The tracks definitely have a sense of the “futuristic music” style unique to the late 1990s and early 2000s, a commonality shared with the earlier work of Aphex Twin.

Only months before releasing “Syro,” one of James’ earliest albums surfaced on the web. The album, which was produced by James in the mid-‘90s under the pseudonym “Caustic Window,” only had four pressings, one of which was put up for sale by an anonymous record collector for over $13,000. A Kickstarter was created in response, and raised over $65,000 for the record. Digital copies were made and distributed to the various backers.

With these recent events, it is clear that a return to the past is a recurring theme for James. This theme isn’t unwelcome – fans have been champing at the bit for new content from his Aphex Twin alias and now their prayers are being answered. Late January even brought the release of a completely new album under the Aphex Twin moniker entitled “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2,” a very strange and alien record which drew connections to his earlier styles but also seemed completely detached rhythmically.

Whether or not James is in fact the elusive user48736353001remains to be seen, and frankly won’t make that big of an impact. Fans of James are used to these kinds of antics and having to dive down deeper to find the motives behind a lot of his actions as an artist. If he is in fact user48736353001and simply wanted a creative way to release some old tracks, that’s fine. If user48736353001turns out to be their own person who happened to, in a very brief span of time, create a large body of good quality work, that’s fine too.

In recent years, the more “underground” annals of music have become filled with this revolution of artists simply releasing their music however they please. From Death Grips’ 2015release of “Fashion Week” as a possible clue to the release date for their final album “Jenny Death” to Nine Inch Nails leaving USB drives at concert venues that contained tracks for the then unreleased “Year Zero” album back in 2007, it’s hard to see this as a bad thing.

110 of user48736353001’s tracks are currently being offered for free download on their SoundCloud page. Exhibiting a range of sounds from ambient to hard techno, user48736353001 has talent, whether it’s one we’ve heard before or not.

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