To my ears the solo piano has the greatest potential of all traditional instruments. It is at its strongest when unaccompanied, its most effective when it whispers: in terms of listenability, there is no sound quite like it. Richard James' Avril 14 is reminiscent of Grizzly Bear's Foreground or Radiohead's Videotape (predating them both by almost ten years) - a somewhat incongruous comparison considering James' renown as a musician of the dark arts. In the context of his oeuvre then, Avril 14 is like moonlight among shadows. It has a sense of silence to it, bathing in a quiet air of calm, and - despite its almost child-like, playful melody - a distinct maturity and ineffable charm. With the delicate subtlety of a wind-up music-box the song reveals a narrative: in the classical tradition of counterpoint, notes and lines bounce off of and clash against one another, yet we leave in good spirits as any momentary conflict is resolved by the end of the piece. In a way the track ends abruptly, stuttering to a halt like a word on the tip of one's tongue being swallowed again. Ultimately, then, the magic of the song relies on its channeling of an unspeakable truth, from one soul to another, mediated by the instrument of piano alone.
Aphex Twin - Avril 14