Richard D James makes me freak out a little bit
April 4, 2006 12:49 AM   Subscribe

images embedded in music by aphex twin can be viewed on certain tracks using a spectograph. What initially was thought to be a hidden demon face, turned out to actually be Richard D James' trademark, his unnerving grinning visage. (other examples are interesting). The images were embedded in the music using a program called metasynth which allows you to do cool things like 'paint sound'. The secret images even inspired a reasonably interesting article at wired. The most remarkable thing to me is how the generally abrasive result of this process was blended so well into the tracks. I have listened to these many times myself and never sensed something off or odd about the sections with these embedded images in them (other than the usual odd sounds that make up the tracks themselves). Wikipedia has a pretty good article for those unfamiliar with the artist.

previously on mefl here, but the content is old and that link dead so I thought it was worth another post.
posted by crunchywelch (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The venetian snares cats, from the track cunningly entitled 'look', are real cool too. I just listened to and watched the track with winamp voiceprint, very entertaining, if largely for novelty value.

I like the idea of painting sound. Has anyone done anything interesting with this concept, presumably with (visual) patterns, rather than pictures? Fractaly things maybe. Seems a curiously and satisfyingly pure way to make noise. Is there anything like metasynth for windows? I want to play.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:49 AM on April 4, 2006

neat. I knew about the aphex twin one, but not about the others.
posted by juv3nal at 1:52 AM on April 4, 2006

The one with the school"girls" disturbed me (in a good way) the first time I saw it, before I knew who Aphex Twin was. It seems much too real for CGI, are they just latex / silicone masks?
posted by Tzarius at 1:59 AM on April 4, 2006

posted by 6am at 2:19 AM on April 4, 2006

I knocked up a little python script called that will create a .wav file from an image after reading about this neat trick. Havent ever used it in my own music yet, though.
posted by zog at 2:49 AM on April 4, 2006

I've been fiddling a bit with this kind of thing ever since coming across this very same article years ago.

I use a program called Coagula - Industrial Strength Color-Note Organ. It's great for creating weird science fiction bleeps and hums. Also wonderful if you want to embed real hidden messages into one of your band's songs, like "[rival band] Sucks!". It's the backwards-playing LP for the 21st century.

It's wonderful fun to mess around with Coagula, so long as no-one minds the mind-bending noise coming from your computer.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 2:51 AM on April 4, 2006

you got it right Tzarius, I'm pretty sure it's little people in masks with a little bit of digital tweaking
posted by elr at 3:50 AM on April 4, 2006

previously on mefl here

They are nice images and a nice idea. So nice, in fact, that we are determined to discuss them over and over for the rest of time...

Does anyone just actually listen to music anymore?
posted by meehawl at 4:38 AM on April 4, 2006

Neat, but I remember this from the last time it was posted so probably not worth reposting.
posted by fire&wings at 4:49 AM on April 4, 2006

No, no one just listens to music anymore. You are the last one and you fondly remember when music was real and people listened to it. Damned kids!
posted by trey at 4:58 AM on April 4, 2006

Is there anything like metasynth for windows?

Fruity Loops does this. Fruity Loops demo version has an effect called "BeepMap". Fruity Loops also lets you export to WAV or MP3 in the demo version. The rest is up to you.
posted by Jimbob at 5:01 AM on April 4, 2006

posted by VulcanMike at 5:58 AM on April 4, 2006

Does Richard D still drive a military tank around the English countryside? What an apeshit bastard, but I love it.
posted by ibeji at 6:02 AM on April 4, 2006

It's a neat idea, and a great way to generate noise for a track, I think. It's more unique than just a white-noise generator, anyway.
posted by empath at 6:14 AM on April 4, 2006

Slightly OT, but AFX's first new full-length in 5 yrs. comes out shortly. It collects many of the vinyl-only Analord tracks from last year. Here's my review.
posted by hyperizer at 6:15 AM on April 4, 2006

Also, if you watch later in that aphex song with the face, you see something that looks alarmingly like a DNA PCR.
posted by Mach5 at 6:26 AM on April 4, 2006

With the greatest of tender love and care, hyperizer, that probably wasn't worth your time posting.
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:41 AM on April 4, 2006

This is a fun post. Now I gotta track down those Mac programs...
posted by klangklangston at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2006

Does Richard D still drive a military tank around the English countryside?
not only that he also apparently owns an ex-Russian submarine...
posted by brilliantmistake at 7:05 AM on April 4, 2006

He ripped that schtick off from the KLF anyway, who used to drive round Aylesbury in a fake techno police car. Now THAT was cool.
posted by bifter at 7:06 AM on April 4, 2006

As opposed to a real "techno police car" ;-)
posted by hyperizer at 7:19 AM on April 4, 2006

hyperizer - Hows that compare to Hangable Auto Bulb? I've really fallen in love with osme of the tracks on that.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on April 4, 2006

Artw, if you like Hangable Auto Bulb, I think you'll like Chosen Lords. They're pretty different in texture, but HAB is ten years older. AFX's new stuff is simpler and cleaner sounding with less obvious sampling. I also think it's generally slower and more contemplative. It has the same kind of melodies, though. There are some samples here.
posted by hyperizer at 9:58 AM on April 4, 2006

Here's the Come to Daddy video. I hadn't seen it before and am now totally creeped out -- in a good way.
posted by wsg at 11:59 AM on April 4, 2006

wsg - see if you can find the video for Windowlicker. Now that's REALLY wrong.
posted by Artw at 12:08 PM on April 4, 2006

The Windowlicker video (NSFW), for the five people in the world who haven't seen it yet. (There are a few copies on YouTube also, but they're not in proper widescreen.)

Both the Come to Daddy and Windowlicker videos were done with silicone masks, not CGI (I thought they were CGI at first too).

I'm still wondering if that's really Richard himself opening the champagne bottle in the Windowlicker video, or just another impostor...
posted by neckro23 at 1:45 PM on April 4, 2006

posted by cellphone at 2:33 PM on April 4, 2006

funny man!
posted by archkim at 5:37 PM on April 4, 2006

Hey, I missed this post when it happened, but whenever this comes up I have to post my little how-to on Auditory Visualization. That secret thing is what made me check it out, so look at my little tutorial and try it for yourself, it's really fun.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2006

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