Wednesday, October 27News That Matters

The Long Tail of Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’

“Drukqs” received a mixed critical response, but it did have devotees. Not long after its release, the members of Alarm Will Sound, an adventurous group of classical musicians based in New York, decided to arrange Aphex Twin songs for their chamber orchestra’s 2005 album “Acoustica.” “It felt like a statement to say this is really serious music,” said Alan Pierson, the group’s artistic director. “Aphex Twin is a genius for color and timbre, and so much of ‘Acoustica’ is about that, but with ‘Avril 14th’ it’s really just the notes,” Pierson added. “The notes are really gorgeous.”

Around the same time, the composer and music supervisor Brian Reitzell began work on Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette.” Before shooting began, he compiled two CDs of contemporary music that captured the tone the director wanted, even though it was a period piece. Reitzell felt “Avril 14th” almost served as a bridge between the two eras.

While James passed on Reitzell’s invitation to contribute new compositions for the film’s score (“Some artists are just not comfortable making their art fit into someone else’s art,” Reitzell said), “Avril 14th” does appear in a sequence where Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst, languorously walks through a field and up a palace staircase. Reitzell said that after an early screening for friends, the director Wes Anderson complimented him for including the song, and said he had considered using it for one of his own films, but now was bummed because he felt like it was off limits. It later appeared in the trailer for “Her,” the maudlin A.I. romance from Coppola’s ex-husband, Spike Jonze.

The song’s life in pop culture spiked again just a year later thanks to a longtime fan, Jorma Taccone of the comedy trio the Lonely Island, a group that became famous from its musical digital shorts on “Saturday Night Live.” “I’m the perfect demo for liking that song in terms of I like a lot of electronic music and I’m also a totally emotional, romantic dude,” Taccone said in an interview.

For years he kept a basic beat on his computer featuring a looped sample from “Avril 14th,” but never had the right opportunity to use it. In September 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then the president of Iran, visited New York City and gave a talk stating there were no homosexuals in his country. In response, the Lonely Island created “Iran So Far.” Over Taccone’s “Avril 14th” beat, Andy Samberg performed a love song dedicated to Ahmadinejad, delivering lines like, “You say Iran don’t have the bomb, but they already do/You should know by now, it’s you.”