The most elaborate musical prank of this week is no doubt the Aphex Twin/Taylor Swift mashup album. The cartoonist who put Aphex Swift together put forth an astonishing amount of effort to link two totally different artists. The most shocking thing isn’t the choice of artists, however, since there are already endless examples of absurd mashups floating around the web. No, the shocking thing is that this WTF pairing is so well done.
My initial reaction is that there’s no way Aphex Swift works at all, but on several subsequent spins I have to admit that there’s something going on here. “Starlightlicker” is the song that gets the closest to working in any traditional sense, no doubt because “Windowlicker” is the closest Aphex Twin has come to any sort of pop crossover. It’s surrounded by “T4ouble” and “We Are Never Getting Girl/Boygether”, both of which pace hectic breakbeat productions from Richard D. James Album with two of Swift’s most massive pop smashes. Initially I’m convinced that these two tracks speed up the tempo on “4” and “Girl/Boy Song” because they sound impossibly complex underneath Swift’s one-line-at-a-time delivery, but on further review the tempo is unchanged. The juxtaposition serves as a vivid reminder of just how unique and unhinged each of Aphex Twin’s pseudorandom productions is.
On “Why You Gotta Be So Flim”, however, the mashup artist does speed up Aphex Twin’s original tempo. “Flim” already exists as a tightrope-balancing act between pleasant ambient patterns and jagged breakbeats, but upping the tempo shifts the scale towards the chaotic side. Balance is maintained by Swift, however, as she endearingly repeats, “Why you gotta be so mean?” The experiment closes with Swift singing over “Avril 14th”, which highlights just how conventionally pretty a piano ballad it actually is when not engulfed in the Aphex Twin mystique. “You Belong With Avril” serves as a palette cleanser for the whole ordeal, similar to “aisatsana”‘s positioning on the challenging Syro.
Overall, Aphex Swift’s effective execution takes it from a clever idea into being relatively good music. A novelty being high-quality doesn’t mean it’s not a novelty, but the fact that I pressed play on an Aphex Twin/Taylor Swift mashup and later found myself thinking and writing about it is testament to me of its merit. “It changes the way I look at both songs,” says a Soundcloud commenter on “Why You Gotta Be So Flim”, which is a worthy achievement for any good mashup.