Do You Know Squarepusher?
For over a decade, Tom Jenkinson, under the moniker of Squarepusher, has avoided drowning in the symptom of many Electronic Music artists: the genre.
Armed with his eccentric barrage of hardware ranging from Akai samplers, analogue reverb units, a bassline synthesizer, and sequencer to bass guitar, classical guitar, a drum kit and even a xylophone, it is no wonder the sounds he produces are more than difficult to categorize or plagiarize.
The sounds Squarepusher creates change quicker than we can find time to name them, let alone attempt to describe. Is it Jazz Fusion, Musique Concrete, Jungle, Post-bop Avant- garde, Breakbeat-techno, Acid, Drill n’ bass, Drum n’ bass, or Funk? Squarepusher doesn’t seem to care how you categorize his music; he just wants to exercise that over-active, manic brain of his.
His success in genre-splicing might be in part due to his childhood. Born in Essex, England in 1975, a young Jenkinson grew up listening to Jazz musicians like Miles Davis and spent much of his time playing fretted bass guitar and the drums, as well as skimming radio stations to hear unlike songs juxtaposed against eachother. He slowly migrated towards Electronic Music after hearing the likes of LFO and Carl Craig, both highly experimental in their programming, musicianship, and composition.
Jenkinson’s collegiate education in Mathematics can be sensed in his re-shaping of the musical sphere into a complex, multi-faceted polygon of angular melodies and dissonant chords. Familiar Squarepusher consists of intermittent guitar riffs, stabs of a keyboard, blips n’ bleeps, and a rapid-fire of beats that converge into a clusterfuck of sound.
Ready to Consume?
This is not the Squarepusher many of us know.
Unlike the majority of his previous albums, “Numbers Lucent” carries the listener through the entire album, rather than sending them off in different, wild, wacked-out directions. Perhaps, the 2009 release marks Jenkinson’s thoughtful attempt at stitching together an intransigent EP not terribly marked by caustic, spastic, primal, schizoid-like beats.
“Zounds Perspex” is for the hardcore, and I mean hardcore, unst-unst beat-loving ravers. The tune starts out with a fuzzy synth line that rips and zips by almost as fast as the tune’s House-speed tempo. You might wanna stretch and down a bottle of water before attempting to dance this one. As the song quickly progresses to make the most of its four minutes, the fast-paced staccato synth continues to sting.
You also might want to switch the EQ setting to treble reducer: along with the swelling crash of the symbols that seems to smack you in the face and order you to speed up that tapping of your foot, the high-hats tssst in a splash of ecstacy. The tempo of the snares quickly race up to the fuzzy bass whips, and just when you think you’ve got the hang of it all, the song ends…phew.
The refreshingly retro “Star Time 1” features the coma-inducing bass guitar virtuosity of Jenkinson. Jam-banders should respect this one; expert Squarepusher plays bass like a skilled vocalist sings scat; it’s all improvisational. The song starts off with asteroids of synth shot out of a cannon into the soundscape. The composition progresses to a funky boing-boing of a sci-fi, qwerky wah-wah effect that stresses the beat on the ones, twos, and threes.
The twinkling, fluttering of a harpsichord connects its sweet, delicate notes with the rest of the musical constilation. At two minutes and twenty-four seconds, Jenkinson returns with a tender lullaby-of-a-bass solo that hangs in the cool air, evaporating into a dull hush capable of soothing the listener into slumberland. Ssshh…don’t wake the baby.
“Paradise Garage” ensures nap time is over. Like a track straight out of Orbital’s “Perfect Sunrise” CD, this song proudly declares that it’s time to rage. Throughout the tune, Squarepusher speedily plucks the bass guitar in such a violent fashion, it is as if the strings were to pop-off and break at their attachments. The song will wake you and your feet up; with its muddled thwacks and crackled-up, grit-filled breakcore, “Paradise Garage” introduces the listener to a complete sensory, mental Acid-House-Fusion-Jazz party, complete with a buzzing heat wave of synth that wisps at the consumer’s eardrums then recedes, only to flourish again in a moment’s notice.
This tune is the closest to old-school Squarepusher-esque tunage that the album allows; a few bangs and crashes arise here and there. Dry, industrial, metal sounds ricochet off the listener’s cranium walls like a steel-refinery of noise, while the expressive wah-wah mimics Jenkinson’s own voice. The jungle-fest commences at just under four minutes with one last poignant drum kick amongst descentigrating snare punches.
Is It Worth It?
All in all, “Numbers Lucent” is probably best suited for the picky eaters. If you like your Squarepusher served up as a heaping plate of comfort food, complete with bitter Breakcore, twisted beats, and a side of insanity, then this album is not for you.
This release is nothing like 1997’s “Hard Normal Daddy” CD. “Numbers Lucent” is a playground of dampened-down sound accompanied by a flicker of side-splitting noise, but it is stretched, squashed and welded into the likes of Jazz and Funk. Fans of “Solo Electric Bass 1” will appreciate the occasional melody-driven tune that mimics Aphex Twin’s “Analoge Bubblebath”. Those still hungering for old-skool Squarepusher, have no fear; Jenkinson is always fidgeting with his hardware, just itching to bring back that bombastic scrumptiousness.