A long lost album from one of electronic music’s most influential modern figures has at last been made available for the wider public’s listening pleasure, but only after a dedicated group of diehard fans ‘liberated’ the rare release from collector obscurity.
It’s a yarn that’s got all the elements of a feel-good tale, complete with a killer soundtrack.
The story begins 20 years ago when one Richard David James, aka Aphex Twin, completed an album in 1994 under the moniker ‘Caustic Window’, only to turn his back on the record and scrapped it at the test pressing stage. One of the five test pressings – labelled CAT023 – of the four-side vinyl that survived eventually found its way onto popular vinyl collectors’ website and marketplace Discogs.com in April this year - for the ridiculously high price tag of $13,500, as FACT details.
The original seller, who claimed he was given the test pressing by Aphex Twin’s own Rephlex Records label, eventually struck a deal with online community We Are The Music Makers (WATMM), to place the “holy grail of electronic music releases” up for a crowdfunding campaign where fans could collectively purchase the record as a digital download for a pledge of $16.
Which is exactly what WATMM did, with the official blessing from Richard James and Rephlex Records, starting a Kickstarter campaign where 500 fans could purchase a hi-def digital copy of the famed Caustic Window LP ripped direct from the source.
The democratic campaign went ballistic, with the Kickstarter busting its initial target of $9,300 just four days after launching on 10th April, eventually drawing the attention of over 4,000 Aphex Twin diehards and raising just shy of $67,500.
The group are now auctioning off the original test pressing on eBay, with plans to split the profits from the sale three ways: one third going directly to James and his Rephlex label as a royalty payment for sharing his unreleased output digitally, another third to the Kickstarter contributors, and a final third to a charity (decided on through votes from campaign backers).
In short, everybody wins. Including those who didn’t even take part in the Caustic Window liberation, with one cheeky individual taking the idea of music freedom one step further by uploading the full 15-track LP as a playlist on YouTube.
So, grab some headphones and take a listen to the long lost album that caused all the fuss to begin with.
So $67,500 and two long decades later, was Caustic Window all worth it? Well, from most initial reports – including those of Stereogum and SPIN - the unearthed collection wasn’t put to pasture for lack of quality and will certainly sate the thirst of Aphex Twins who’ve been starved for new music since the release of 2001′s Drukqs. (And no, 2003′s 26 Mixes For Cash compilation doesn’t count).
For the most part, Caustic Window positively recalls the groundbreaking mid-90s Selected Ambient Works releases it was made between, but more striking – to quote NME who put it best – is “the fact Caustic Window sounds so fresh and ‘other’ on June 18, 2014, [showing] how difficult it is to really ape [Aphex Twin's] sound.”
So chalk it up as a major victory for the internet and music lovers at large.
Now, if only the rap-loving backers behind the two crowdfunding campaigns had found the same success in their Kickstarter attempts to purchase the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘secret’, one-of-a-kind album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin... but that’s a story for another time.
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