Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Joey Loves Mental Acid

Squarepusher - The Modern Bass Guitar

With a cover that resembles a still from a brochure showing off the equipment found in the music room of a posh school, a thoroughly welcoming handshake of a title (‘Hello Everything’) and an opening track that is as adorable as a lost Japanese tourist carrying a Hello Kitty rucksack, the latest Squarepusher album is full of surprises.

I often find I have to perspire to really like Tom Jenkinson’s albums, ever since ‘Feed Me Weird Things’ became jammed in my CD player over a decade ago. You see, despite having a beard, fingers capable of stroking my furry chin, and looking to all intents and purposes like someone who really digs jazz, I don’t. Joey Hates Jazz in fact. Joey does, however, love mental acid and jump-up jungle, so 7/10ths of the shit Squarepusher bangs out is right up my street. It’s just the other fraction I have always struggled to genuinely enjoy.

However, there’s something about ‘Hello Everything’ that makes me want to cast all my preconceptions to one side and love one of his albums from start to finish for what it is, rather than what I want it to be. Even when the computer-game kitsch of joyous opener ‘Hello Meow’, is suddenly interrupted by one of Tom’s trademark Seinfeld fretless bass jams, I find myself shrugging and smiling and actually enjoying it. ‘Theme from Sprite’ has a live jazz feel and here I am firing up the pipe, donning a roll-neck and tapping my toe, rather than gritting my teeth and hurling the album into oblivion.

We’re already over a sixth of the way through the album and Tom has yet to show his teeth. That comes soon enough with the mighty ‘Planetarium’, as proper old school junglist riddims and a gloriously menacing bass rumble work with strangely familiar melodies, which resonate like Boards of Canada at their whimsically nostalgic best. I think it could be this new found love of proper old-fashioned melodies and the crafting of more focused ‘songs’ which makes ‘Hello Everything’ such an enjoyably cohesive body of work. There’s none of the wilful experimentation which can often be alienating. You can even tolerate the hollow and meandering ambience of ‘Vacuum Garden’ when you know there’s tracks like ‘Welcome To Europe’ to enjoy, with a gloriously uplifting tune right at its heart, yet still the toughened beats and dirty bassline that show he hasn’t lost the edge.

The highlight for me is ‘The Modern Bass Guitar’, which rather than being the indulgent five plus minutes of inane bass slapping threatened by the title, is in fact a showcase for the wonders of the TB-303, which was originally marketed to guitarists for bass accompaniment while practicing alone. Letting loose a loopy drum track, Tom proceeds to violently tweak every possible squeak, squelch, bleep and blech imaginable from the versatile box of tricks. I can imagine his 303 exploding when the track’s done, which wouldn’t really matter as I can’t imagine Tom ever needing to use it again after this tour de force.

‘Hello Everything’, Squarepusher’s seventh studio album, is released by Warp Records on Monday 16th October. If you pre-order either the CD or the vinyl from Warpmart now, you also get a free 3” CD entitled ‘Vacuum Tracks’ absolutely free. For slightly more dosh, you can order an exclusive 12” as part of the package, featuring the three tracks which were sold as downloads prior to the album release. These tracks are still available to buy as downloads at bleep.com.

Squarepusher at Warp Records
Buy Squarepusher back catalogue at Warpmart
Squarepusher at Wikipedia
Squarepusher discography
Squarepusher My Space