Mixing together Aphex Twin and Taylor Swift is a weird idea at first, but it makes so much sense the more that you think about it. They may be pretty far apart sonically, but both of them have released albums this year that challenged the boundaries of where pop music can go. Enter cartoonist David Rees, who has just put out an eight-track album that mixes the two artists to pretty good effect! Putting together “Avirl 14th” and “You Belong With Me” just somehow works. In a Tumblr post, Rees laid out his reasoning for working on the project: “I actually think Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) and Taylor Swift have a lot in common besides their songwriting talents — or, at least, they each have characteristics more commonly associated with the other.” Read his full explanation and listen to the mix below.
This summer I decided to make an album of Aphex Twin / Taylor Swift mashups. I am a big fan of both these artists — I think they’ve each written some thrilling pop hooks and their production is amazing. I also just wanted to see if it could be done. (Plus I thought “AphexSwift” passed the threshold of catchy titles for mashup projects, which is half the battle.)
I actually think Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) and Taylor Swift have a lot in common besides their songwriting talents — or, at least, they each have characteristics more commonly associated with the other.
For instance, Taylor Swift made her name by writing big-hearted confessional songs for tween girls. But a lot of Aphex Twin’s music (especially on the Richard D. James album, from which most of these tracks are culled) is also super romantic — saccharine, even. Sometimes I wonder if his impossibly complex, inhuman drum patterns are just serving as a layer of sonic indie-cred to make the heart-on-your-sleeve melody and delicate timbres of (say) Girl/Boy song more palatable for “cool” people. Or, on a more personal level, it’s like he’s protecting his bleeding heart behind a crazy tangle of barbed-wire snare rolls. AND WHO AMONG US HASN’T DONE THAT?
So part one of my thesis is: APHEX TWIN IS AS BIG A ROMANTIC CORNBALL AS TAYLOR SWIFT
And then, on the other hand, we’ve got to acknowledge that Taylor Swift is sort of terrifying. Aphex Twin is famously camera shy, and employs a lot of cryptic/creepy imagery in his videos. Of course, I wouldn’t describe Taylor Swift as camera-shy … but her incredible poise and superhuman competence are, to me, just as alien and intimidating as Aphex Twin’s photoshopped leering ghoul-faces. It’s a cliche to describe a celebrity as controlled and masterful as Taylor Swift as robotic, but I think there’s some truth there, especially in an age when we assume — rightly or wrongly — any pop singer who hits a high note did it with the help of a computer. There’s also the matter of her lyrics, which can be sorta cruel and sarcastic in a classic “mean girl” way. For all her blinding smiles and Subway commercials and wholesome concerts, I do think there’s a dark side to Taylor Swift. She is what happens when Skynet becomes self-aware.
And so part two of my thesis is: TAYLOR SWIFT IS AS SCARY AS APHEX TWIN
Anyway, there’s a lot more pseudo-intellectual jibber jabber I could say about this project, but basically I just hope people enjoy listening to it, because it was really fun to make. I learned about making mashups while working on it, and I came to appreciate these two songwriters even more than I already did. I would be open to marrying either of them.