Rephlex is an independent record label started in 1991 by Grant Wilson-Claridge and Richard D James, aka Aphex Twin. Originally based in Cornwall, the label's operations soon moved to London. Music on the label ranges from electronic, classical, ambient, electro, house, soul, drum & bass, hip hop, techno, hardcore and R&B, but it all falls into the category of Braindance, a style championed by Rephlex but not exclusive to it. Braindance is an umbrella term for the best in music. It is where passion, imagination, creativity and fun come together to produce genius. Hugely influential, the sound of Braindance can be heard in music ranging from Radiohead to The Neptunes.
Rephlex has over 40 artists including AFX, Cylob, Astrobotnia, Ovuca, Bogdan Raczynski, Global Goon, DMX Krew, The Gentle People, Bochum Welt, D'Arcangelo and Mike Dred, and have introduced such influential artists as Squarepusher, Leila, Mu-Ziq and Luke Vibert onto the world scene. They have also delved into the vaults to bring out classic and unreleased tracks by 808 State, Stakker, Future Sound, Baby Ford and Caustic Window.
Such a huge roster of artists means that every week, somewhere on Earth, Braindance, Rephlex-style, can be experienced at a club, bar or rave. Described by music mag NME as 'the coolest label on Earth', Rephlex has done much to transform and influence contemporary music, and has done it with a smile.
AFX and Caustic Window are alternative monikers for Aphex Twin, unquestionably the most talented and influential artist working in electronic music today. Respected by artists as diverse as Björk, Rodney Jerkins and Philip Glass, Aphex Twin is as likely to play at the Barbican Centre or with a Brazilian batucada band in Sao Paulo as he is at a small squat party in north London.
Recently the AFX name has been primarily used for remixes of classic house tracks by Baby Ford, DJ Pierre and 808 State on the Rephlex label as well as Men Records, but AFX is also best remembered for the classic Analogue Bubblebath series of EPs from the early 1990s on Mighty Force, Rabbit City and Rephlex.
The Caustic Window alias has been used to showcase older tracks, most of which were written when Richard was only a teenager. Several tracks have so far been released, one of which was famously used on a Pirelli advert. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as many more tracks remain in the Aphex vaults. These raw analogue compositions still have the power to move, both physically and emotionally, and fans hope that more will make it to vinyl.
Cylob, aka Chris Jeffs, is a criminally underrated artist responsible for some of the catchiest techno-pop records of recent times such as Rewind! and Cut The Midrange, Drop The Bass. His recent, ambient album Mood Bells also displayed a more thoughtful side to his character. Inspired by a trip to Japan, it used many Oriental instruments and was played in the glass and ceramics rooms of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Never one to be pigeon-holed, Chris was also responsible for some of the music on the official FIFA World Cup site. Previously known as Kinesthesia, Cylob is one of the core Rephlex artists who have helped define the Rephlex philosophy.
Ovuca/Astrobotnia - Hailing from Finland, young artist Aleksi Perala has demonstrated an uncanny ability to reinvent electronic music with a healthy lack of respect to what has gone before. The high point of Perala's career so far is his album Wasted Sunday, an amazing work which he describes as 'warm, mellow and natural'. In many ways, he has developed these themes with his new Astrobotnia alias, but it is also worth investigating Ovuca's killer foray into drum & bass on the Lactavent EP.
Squarepusher - Rephlex was responsible for unleashing the incredible talent of Tom Jenkinson as Squarepusher onto dancefloors all over. Now that he is signed to Warp Records, it is easy to forget that his best album was his debut, Feed Me Weird Things. Jenkinson successfully combined his accomplished bass guitar playing with previously unheard-of drum programming to create one of the best drum & bass albums ever released.
As Chaos AD, Tom is also responsible for some fierce acid tracks, as is his brother Andy Jenkinson, aka Ceephax.
Leila - Another Rephlex first, Leila Arab, who previously worked with Björk, was a revelation. Her debut album Like Weather was a widely respected milestone and defines a period of London urban music. With vocalists Luca Santucci and Donna Paul, Leila's music has an awesome power and individuality.
Vibert/Simmonds - The classic electro-psychadelic album Weirs was written in a hotel in Falmouth by Jeremy Simmonds and Luke Vibert, launching Vibert's career as a master of sample-based music. Vibert has since been successful on several other labels but will always remain at the heart of the Rephlex scene.
Bogdan Raczynski - This Polish Canadian artist has carved a niche for himself in the world of drum & bass. A visit to his website demonstrates the loyalty of his fanbase: his most recent album included fan remixes, the result of a competition. Raczynski's pioneering sound has even influenced Aphex Twin, and his stage acts are legendary - one often fears for Bogdan's safety at the shows. Never has drum & bass sounded so aggressive and tender at the same time! Bogdan, however, also showed he's capable of haunting instrumental music on an EP dedicated to his Polish parents.
Global Goon - If cats listened to music, this would be it! As Global Goon, Johnny Hawk has mesmerised his fans with his unique style. By turns whimsical and evocative, his music defies categorisation and has led to comparisons with the godfathers of electronic easy listening.
DMX Krew - One of the more prolific artists on the electro scene, Ed DMX, aka DMX Krew has been a significant contributor to the electro and new wave revivals. On his defining album, We Are DMX, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to authentically incorporate 1980s-esque sounds while still appealing to a modern audience and is much respected by his contemporaries. Also responsible for many electrobass records and remixes, his most famous being for Herbie Hancock's 'Rockit', he has released records on many other labels, not least his own label, Breakin' Records.
The Gentle People - At the forefront of the easy listening revival, The Gentle People is made up of Dougee Dimensional, Honeymink, Laurie LeMans and Valentine Cornelian. Their debut album, Soundtracks For Living, is best described as a 'love bubble' and their music ranges from Gainsbourg-esque pop to film score collage worthy of Morricone.
Bochum Welt - With the success of Drexciya it is easy to forget how immaculate the Kraftwerk and Aphex-inspired compositions of Bochum Welt really are. Listening to any of his releases, particularly Module 2, it is hard to question the assertion that Italian Gianluigi Di Costanzo perfectly encapsulates the romance of techno. Surely it's time to reappraise this artist.
D'Arcangelo - The Italian D'Arcangelo brothers, Marco and Fabrizio, have created some highly accomplished electronic music, with their album Shipwreck being a particularly fine example of their craft. Capable of turning their hands to almost any form of techno, D'Arcangelo are regarded as masters of the genre.
Mike Dred - One of the brains behind the Universal Indicator series, alongside Aphex Twin amongst others, Mike Dred, aka The Kosmik Kommando, was almost single-handedly responsible for the acid revival in the early 1990s with his debut album Freaquenseize. In recent years he has also produced electro and is much respected by breakdance crews and the hip hop scene at large.
His most interesting music has been his collaborations with composer Peter Green. Their sonic experiments turned heads amongst the electro acoustic crowd when they released their Virtual Farmer album at the end of the 1990s.
U-ZIQ - Pronounced (and often spelled) Mu-Ziq. In the 1990s, Mike Paradinas was spoken in the same breath as Aphex Twin and he continues to cut a swathe through the electronic drum & bass crowd and is also an impressive DJ. His two debut albums, released within months of each other, lay testament to a huge talent and his music was largely responsible for the introduction of the term 'drill 'n bass'. A highlight of his Rephlex output would have to be his entertaining collaboration with Aphex Twin entitled simply Mike & Rich.
The rest - Other artists include: Pierre Bastien, who makes his own instruments out of Meccano and played at the Elektronik festival in London; his contemporary Robert Normandeau, the much revered electro-acoustic musician from Canada; the aforementioned Peter Green; Bodenstandig 2000, purveyors of amazing Atari music who are best described by the name of their Rephlex album Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3; Freakwincey, an R&B/funk band from New Jersey who have supported The Time and whose single 'I Farted' needs no further introduction; Robert Odell, friends of The Belleville Three and the missing component of Detroit techno; Drexciya, Detroit's finest and the most influential electro/techno artist around; PP Roy, whose music will warm any gathering; and The Railway Raver, who must surely have stolen Larry Heard's fingers!
There have also been releases by Dynamix II, 808 State, Stakker, Baby Ford and a retrospective of Terry Baldwin's Future Sound Records. Believe it or not, there are yet many more artists worth checking: Vulva, Lektrogirl, Kiyoshi Izumi, Sam & Valley, Leo Anibaldi, Ensemble, JP Buckle, Slipper, Seefeel, Synectics, Bradley Strider, The Jones Machine, Like-A-Tim, The Lisa Carbon Trio and Yee-King. And, who could forget K-Rock, who, for the better part of a decade was Rephlex's dancer, DJ and MC? He has finally released an album of his own - New Deal, 'the sound of London N5'.
Any Rephlex virgins can do worse than buy the Rephlex showcase album The Braindance Coincidence.
Shows and Parties
As well as the countless artist gigs that occur on a weekly basis, Rephlex Disco Assault Systems is behind some of the best parties around. No longer based in just one place, and described by Madonna as her favourite club night, the Rephresh nights at The Soundshaft in London and Nitsa in Barcelona are fondly remembered. Rephlex gigs are guaranteed to break down barriers. It's not often that one can dance and laugh and make new friends while listening to some of the best music ever made!
Remember: music is for living.