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BRIGHTON SPIEGELTENT: The Odditorium: John Doran Presents: Aphex Twin & Cornish Mythology – The Spiegeltent, Bosco

Reviewer: Thom Punton

Written and delivered by: John Doran

Sardonic lynchpin of online leftfield music magazine The Quietus packs out the Bosco at the Spiegeltent for a talk on Aphex Twin and Cornish culture. Striking a balance between quasi-academic cultural analysis and music nerd completism, Doran takes us through the references to Cornwall in the oeuvre and mythology of the enigmatic Richard D. James. The references are in actual fact few and far between but they are used as a springboard for a fascinating, entertaining exploration of the county’s uniquely magical history.

Doran is honest about the sometimes oblique role that Aphex Twin plays in his talk. There’s a personal element to the show that also drives his interest in Cornish culture. Cornwall is a place he has been visiting on holiday since 1972 and he jokes in his intro that really he should have called the slideshow “What I Did on My Summer Holidays 2018”. He relates how he dragged his family round the different landmarks featured in Aphexian lore, with one holiday snap showing him looking traumatised on a distant rocky outcrop.

Much like pretty much anything Aphex tells the world about himself, his relationship with the place he grew up in is wilfully obtuse. By Doran’s own calculations there are 23 Cornish places mentioned in over 30 song titles, as well as words from the Cornish language nestled amongst the seemingly nonsense titles on 2001 magnum opus Drukqs. But we hear that in the press release to 1993 LP Analogue Bubblebath Vol 3, a section marked “Places of Interest in Cornwall” includes some which are completely fabricated.

It’s this kind of journalist-baiting obfuscation that has built the image of Aphex Twin as a mischievous genius living on the fringes, and it’s unclear whether Cornish history actually means that much to him. It’s almost like Doran is taking it upon himself to dig up the cultural relics that Aphex Twin can’t be bothered to explore because he’s too busy making music or driving his tank.

Much of the talk is devoted to the history behind the Cornish references in the Aphex body of work. The stories, both historical and mythological, behind landmarks like the Gwennap Pit, St. Michael’s Mount and Logan Rock are fascinating in their own right, irrespective of any link to Aphex Twin. This is testament in part to the passion Doran evidently has for the place itself. His self-deprecating humour and down-to-earth demeanour keep the audience on his side throughout, and though he never professes to be an expert on the subject, he shows the rigour of his research through citations and illustrations. It’s a perfect mix of learning, feeling like you’re hanging out with your mate, and listening communally to some legendary electronic music on big speakers.

Reviewed on 12 May 2024

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Illuminating Aphex's Cornwall

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