Selected Ambient Works Volume II (SAW2), released in 1994, is an ambient double album by Richard D. James under his Aphex Twin moniker. It is a follow-up to 1992's Selected Ambient Works 85-92.
Volume II differs significantly from the first volume in the series, in that the first volume is mostly beat-oriented, with complex instrumental rhythmic patterns and heavy bass frequencies. In contrast to the fast, club-inspired ambient music of its predecessor, Volume II consists of slow, moody pieces, performed much like ambient pioneer Brian Eno; e.g. "[lichen]" is reminiscent of Eno's Discreet Music. Many of the tracks feature almost no percussion, and have strong synth textures. James said that the album is "like being in a power station on acid."
Richard D. James has stated in interviews that the sounds in this music were inspired by lucid dreams, and that upon awaking, he would attempt to re-create the sounds and record them. He claimed that he has natural synaesthesia, which contributed to this album.
Volume II originally consisted of 25 songs, all untitled except for the song "Blue Calx." Every song matches with a specific photograph taken by James himself (except for a solid blue emblem representing the first track of the second CD, "Blue Calx"). The graphics are part of an encoded track-listing system that uses circles and pie diagrams—present in varying forms among the different releases—to represent each track (it may even be the case that the diagrams themselves are the actual track names). The lack of written titles for the tracks on this release provided impetus for fans of the album to come up with their own. Officially, however, the songs are still referred to by their track numbers. The most widely accepted track names are below:
There were several editions of SAW2 available for purchase. The most complete, with all 25 tracks, were the Limited Edition UK vinyl, which was pressed on brown vinyl and limited to a press run of 10,000 copies and the UK cassette edition, released simultaneously with the vinyl and CD. Both of these are out of print. The second most complete versions are the regular vinyl release and the Warp Records (UK) CD release, which has every track except for "[stone in focus]", omitted due to the capacity limit of the CD format. The third most complete version is the Sire Records (US) CD release, which also omits "[hankie]". The only hard-copy digital form of "[stone in focus]" can be found on the Astralwerks compilation Excursions In Ambience: The Third Dimension. On this compilation, it has been given the name "#19" and appears as track number 10.
The names for the tracks listed, as aforementioned, are interpretations of the photographs on the labels for the vinyl copies and inlay for the double CD release. On the Sire Records (US) editions, various photos were altered, either by showing unblurred photographs or by changing the image altogether. The image representing "[stone in focus]" was removed entirely on the US version, leaving behind an empty white box. The image for "Blue Calx", it being the only explicitly named track, is a blue box that reads "Blue Calx".
"Blue Calx" originally appeared on the Applied Rhythmic Technology compilation album The Philosophy Of Sound And Machine under the artist name Blue Calx, which was released in cooperation with Rephlex Records.
The front cover for this album features the textual Aphex Twin logo that was used on the earlier Xylem Tube EP, albeit in a broken, incomplete form.