Aphex Twin – Windowlicker (Director’s Version)

Aphex Twin’s videos are immortal — once you see them, you’ll never forget them.

di Skatèna

Ill 22 marzo 1999 Richard D. James in arte Aphex Twin rilasciava per la Warp Records il singolo Windowlicker.

Il clip, girato dal visionario regista britannico Chris Cunningham (autore per artisti come Squarepusher, Portishead e Madonna; nel 1997, invece, aveva già diretto, sempre per conto di James, Come to Daddy) e caratterizzato dalla surreale genialità che lo contraddistingue, ricevette il premio come “Best Video” ai Brit Awards 2000, vincendo contro Supergrass, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim e Robbie Williams.

L’intenzione di Cunningham era di creare una specie di parodia dell’universo rapper gangsta californiano. Nel video, infatti, due ragazzi, mentre sono a zonzo per Los Angeles a bordo di una Mazda Miata (MX5), cercano di rimorchiare due prostitute afroamericane, se non fosse che all’improvviso una lunghissima limousine li tampona. Il finestrino della limousine si abbassa poi rapidamente e il sorriso di Richard D. James appare in tutto il suo demoniaco splendore. Le prostitute decidono quindi di salire sulla limousine, e i due ragazzi, delusi, le guardano agognanti dal finestrino mentre James le palpeggia e festeggia con loro brindando, mentre si deformano assumendo il suo stesso aspetto. Nel frattempo, per strada si vede un altro personaggio, anch’esso con le sembianze di James, che balla con un ombrello recante il logo di Aphex Twin, e la scena rimanda a quella in cui Gene Kelly danza sotto la pioggia in Cantando sotto la pioggia.

  • Il video prosegue poi tra coreografie disturbanti, portate avanti da un corpo di ballo androgino e grottesco allo stesso tempo, e allusioni sessuali che fanno il verso al machismo proprio di determinati generi musicali, come l’hip hop o il reggaeton, concludendosi infine con la lenta e sfarzosa apertura di una bottiglia di champagne e con titoli di coda degni di un film. (artribune.com)

  • Quanto alla musica, si inizia con una melodia semplice, quattro o cinque note, lente come la morte, che non fanno in tempo a venirti a noia, visto che durano dieci secondi o poco più, dopo i quali fa il suo ingresso trionfale un pattern ritmico campionato come fosse una grezzata funky, ma parecchio più incasinata. E le cose si fanno subito tremendamente interessanti. Nemmeno il tempo di mischiare questi due primi ingredienti e il mix ci introduce direttamente al (prendiamoci il lusso di chiamarlo così) “cantato”: è la voce stessa di Richard D. James – modulata in maniera traballante e malferma in modo da sembrare femminile (o quantomeno androgina) – che ci accompagnerà per tutta la durata del pezzo, soprattutto ora che le pulsazioni iniziano a prendere la via di una spavalderia instabile e ammiccante. Mugolii di godimento da hot line telefonica, sapientemente cuciti e drappeggiati sopra l’indistinguibile mormorare di James cominciano a creare quel senso di disturbante nausea sexy che il video andrà poi a rendere del tutto letterale, in maniera volutamente eccessiva. Da qui in poi layer sempre nuovi di variazioni sul tema iniziano ad accavallarsi l’uno sopra l’altro, alternandosi a improvvisi inciampi tanto epilettici quanto farseschi, che danno al tutto un retrogusto di inquietudine casuale, come al circo degli orrori, quando sai che alla prossima curva comparirà qualcosa che tenterà di spaventarti, ma ti senti ragionevolmente sicuro di saperlo gestire visto che dai, alla fine siamo sempre al luna-park. E invece i synth e le tastiere si fanno via via più distorti, i drum pattern iniziano ad assomigliare ai lamenti del trapano di un dentista e l’amplesso che sta sotto al tutto sembra ancora ben lontano dall’agognato orgasmo. Tutto diventa – non si sa bene come – sempre più melodico e dissonante allo stesso tempo per poi finire in vacca nei panni di una sublime distonia metallica, quando ormai non ci speravi più. Come un coitus interruptus, ma con meno rimorsi e timori annessi. (hvsr.net)

Il termine Windowlicker in inglese è un’espressione dispregiativa che indica una persona con handicap mentali, mentre il suo equivalente francese lèche-vitrine significa “colui che guarda le vetrine dei negozi senza comprare nulla”, facendo riferimento, dunque, al gesto di leccare una vetrina come metafora della bramosia di possedere qualcosa che viene esposto e non acquistato. Questa seconda interpretazione viene messa in evidenza nel video del singolo, in cui appunto i due ragazzi guardano quasi con l’acquolina alla bocca le due prostitute  attraverso i finestrini della limousine.

Del brano esiste anche la versione Windowlicker (Acid Edit), presente nella compilation 26 Mixes for Cash.

La copertina di Windowlicker.

Le altre due tracce presenti sul 12″ e sul CD sono:

a) ΔMi−1 = −aΣn=1NDi[n] [Σj∈ℂ{i}Fij[n − 1] + [Fexti[[n−1]], detta anche  Complex Matematical Equation[Equation] o [Formula], è un brano sperimentale in quanto, se si osserva uno spettrogramma della stessa, si possono riconoscere immagini del volto di Aphex in suono.

b) Nannou è composto principalmente con campionamenti di un carillon.

Aphex Twin — Windowlicker. Story behind the video

Fonte: medium.com

Aphex Twin’s videos are immortal — once you see them, you’ll never forget them. His story became well-known among electronic intellectuals: a ginger guy from the South of Britain who creates his own keyboards because he isn’t happy with factory pre-sets and has been writing music since he was 13. Aphex despises the term IDM (intelligent dance music). Actually, he gives quite a lot of reasons to talk about him. He gives inexplicable titles to his songs, and he has a lot of them but doesn’t release that much. He taught a computer to write music under his name a long time ago in order to spend more time with his girlfriend in the bushes. People outside the scene said that a sane person couldn’t do such things. Aphex answered: yeah, I experimented for a while but it was long time ago and not for music — it only makes it difficult because you need to concentrate for music. It was during one of those nights in a club that Aphex met Chris Cunningham. They were both extremely surprised how similar they looked: tall, thin and long-haired. (And who wasn’t thin when he was young or long-haired in the 90s?)

When the Warp label decided to release not only full-fledged albums by Aphex but also a full-fledged video with a cool plot, the Come to Daddy track was sent to a short list of directors. Cunningham enjoyed Richard D James’s music. Before this, he made a video for his colleagues, equally complicated electronic musicians from Autechre. In turn, Aphex was amazed by the detailed development of the future video by his twin. Thus, a thing with dwarfs running around wearing masks of the eccentric Celt was created to scare old ladies. The five-minute-long horror film was constantly shown on European MTV during the night (American MTV decided against scaring old ladies). Cunningham didn’t have a music channel, and he received tapes with broadcasts. So, in one of the Party Zone shows Richard turned out to be in a company of hip hop gangsters with expensive cars, girls in bikinis and pure gold. Looking at all this madness, Chris realised it would be great to make Aphex’s next video with all possible hip hop features.

That’s not the primary reason but it had a big bearing on it. When Richard did this track that sounded summery and sunny, I thought, ‘Fuck. We should do it in LA in that style’. Windowlicker was me trying to make a more commercial video for Aphex. The last half of the video sounded really pornographic. It made me think about girls’s arses. So I thought okay, that’s definitely how the video’s got to end and the first half of the video sounded like driving round in the sun.

The sun was reproduced by using many lens flares (they weren’t mainstream yet) as well as by chasing before-sunset scenery. Pornography was achieved by Vince Paterson’s choreography. He created the dances for Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Black & White, great half-videos, half-films with huge budgets, breakthroughs for their time and landmarks in music video directing. Here, like in 1991, there are dances on puddles in the street with an accent on private parts, but more grotesque and with a guest dancer instead of the musician.

Since Aphex’s face had appeared on the covers of his releases, the excitement around this icon with insane eyes started growing even more. On one hand, it was a face that could be used to scare little children and pregnant wives; on the other hand, a melancholic picture of someone from the southern hills. He looked either like a programmer or a serial killer. Or there is another word — windowlicker. In school slang, this is someone who sits near the window in a school bus in confusion or acts inappropriately. In the slang of pupils in UK it means “moron”.

Original and promo shots.

Journalists were wondering: why does he need these grimaces? Aphex shrugged his shoulders, “When you see people in magazines, you can tell they’re thinking, ‘OK, I know I’m not really good-looking, but they’re going to make me good-looking in this photo.‘ So making myself look ugly is just the opposite of that. It’s just a reaction to that fantasy world that celebrities seem to live in.”

At first, it was living under the laws of showbusiness, and then Aphex got a bit carried away, as he says. Richard’s masks served him well and became a cult as well as their progenitor. Some people don’t believe that they didn’t use computers back then. “This is silicone,” explains Richard “They cast my face, but it didn’t look anything like me — it looked like I was taking a dump. So they had to sculpt it from photos instead. Quite well done, except they didn’t give me any eyebrows. And they’re not my teeth. All the masks are different. The black ones are really lush.”

This is a great compliment for a very self-critical Cunningham who has been creating special effects for big films since he was young and always criticised people who did masks for him for not making them realistic enough. Even H. R. Giger, the creator of the cheerful characters for all the Alien films (and Cunningham worked for the third one), appreciated the pinnacle of his creation — the girl with crooked teeth who two losers stared hungrily at from a Mazda. He created two pictures of smiling weirdos and named them after the video.

“At first I was a bit hesistant to go back to using the head-swap idea,” confesses Chris Cunningham. “But it seemed so different in tone to Come to Daddy, that I thought it would be worth doing an LA sequel. By this point I was consciously trying to make each video completely different to the last. There were three more options left, I could either put his head on a woman’s body and change his sex, put his head on an animal’s body, or put it on an old person’s body. The track sounded so sexual and feminine, I thought I’d go for the sex angle. That’s another video that I really wanted to be like a cartoon. I didn’t want the dialogue to be too realistic or anything. I just wanted it to be really over the top.”

As noticed by one DJ, these two talk for so long at the beginning of the video that you wouldn’t think of just chatting or swearing but rather of some serious speech. In fact, it’s possible to count with your fingers how many times they said clean words but you don’t have enough fingers to calculate how many times they used fuck (44) and nigga (54). The clean version starts with a 38-window limo that requires a driving licence like a lorry. You can’t beep out the profanities for four minutes, because you will have nothing but beeping. But the idea of this quarrel is what’s called faire du lèche-vitrine in French and it means pretty much the same as windowlicker — catcalling girls from a car. And, of course, the video was deemed sexist and racist. Chris and Richard don’t say who they wanted to offend, they say they made it just for fun.

They don’t even think that the infernal Come to Daddy where Aphex screams “I want your soul” with his diabolic voice (by the way, the track was created after fan mail with these words) is scary.

“The only truly scary thing about the video is the reaction to it,” says The Guardian that interviewed a concerned citizen who promised to deal with it. “Like the fools in Windowlicker who spend too much time talking, we live in a culture of oversignification, where anything becomes a sign of something else, of something we already know. And the consequence is that we don’t recognise and miss the excitement of the truly new.”

Those who thought that Cunningham dishonoured street values were equally wrong. “I still don’t think it looks like a hip-hop video,” retorts the director. “I tried but I fucked it up. I knew if I used wide-angle lenses it would look like Hype Williams right away. It’s kind of a cheap hip-hop video [laughs].”


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