You have to wonder what synapse fired in comedian David Rees' brain when he heard Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" and thought, "You know what this needs? '4' by Aphex Twin." In the once-omnipresent, Napster-era tradition of mashups that rightly ignore the distinction between high and low culture — holla Grey Album, "Stroke Of Genie-us" or, more recently, Gucci Mane vs. Boards Of Canada — Aphex Swift is a charming table flip that teeters between the sweet and the sinister.
In a blog post over the weekend, Rees (creator of the newspaper-style cartoon Get Your War On and host of Going Deep With David Rees) writes that the country superstar turned pop star and the electronic-music producer have more in common than one might think: "Taylor Swift made her name by writing big-hearted confessional songs for tween girls. But a lot of Aphex Twin's music (especially on the Richard D. James album, from which most of these tracks are culled) is also super-romantic — saccharine, even."
"Why You Gotta Be So Flim," in particular, gets at the nerdy heart of Aphex Swift: James' spacey music-box melody underpins Swift's "Mean" from 2010, originally a banjo-led bluegrass anthem against bullies that becomes heartbreaking here in air-popping beats that hit in strange places. The end result is something like The Postal Service's bittersweet electro-twee, but with a little Nashville twang and a small dose of digital terror.
Even though "T4ouble" is a hell of an opener, Aphex Swift works best when Rees mines Swift's country catalog — the perfectly titled "To Cure A Weakling McGraw" or "You Belong With Avril" — rather than the pop-leaning Red, as critic Carl Wilson notes. The secret hope in these kinds of projects is that they spark a synapse in the artists being mashed, whether or not that means a future collaboration. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift's 1989 is out this week and Aphex Twin's long-awaited Syro came out this past summer — can "syro_1989 [141.98] [rees mix]" be far behind?