Squarepusher - Damogen Furies


posted by on in Music Reviews Print  

SCORE: 2.5 HUZZAH!*
Some tracks will certainly appeal to listeners more than others, but what those tracks will be is down to each individual listener. There are tracks that will downright irritate some, while the same tracks will populate others' favourites. And there lies the real beauty of Squarepusher: his music is divisive, obstreperous, rambunctious, yet very handsome. We can forgive all those little missteps (as we see them) because he gets so many other things … RIGHT!


You dreamt you were a music critic, leaping around your garret, desperately searching for that thesaurus you were using to cheat at Scrabble just the night before. The drunken haze of that night envelopes you as though the very essence of the universe was melting to form an endless flow of reality, sweeping you away. Memories from your childhood flash across your mind, a perpetual stream of single images – the Christmas you were disappointed; the day that boy came to your birthday party and you had no idea who he was, but he smelled funny; the first time you saw the sunlight breaking into REAL BEAMS through clouds; etc – rapidly coming through at 340.29 frames per second. You find yourself craving raspberry jello for no obvious reason. You're not sure whether you've ever been a smoker, so you don't know whether to start or quit. And you've just realised how fucking weird giraffes actually are. So you press pause on the stereo.

 

Yes, Squarepusher has released another album, and you've been listening to it. What is most surprising in that situation is the sheer effort it takes to press pause. Why? Because no matter how strange or fucked up Mr Jenkinson's music is, there is something utterly compelling about it. And for me, much more so than Aphex Twin. So let's get this point out of the way quickly: Damogen Furies is, for me, an infinitely more listenable, nay, ENJOYABLE experience than Syro

 

Where Jenkinson excels is in his will to create. He just does it. The ideas come, and he makes them flesh (or android, or whatever). He never seems hung up on the usual trappings of "artfulness" that so many creators of "IDM" are. Where Richard D. James might insist he doesn't really give a fuck, Jenkinson seems to have a mindset that asks "What is there to not give a fuck about, and why would anyone bother?"

 

For a start, Jenkinson doesn't suffer from a fear of melody or harmony. Somewhere around the time of Stravinsky, and rapidly enforced by the 12-tone dudes (y'know – Arnold and Bela and the boys), the idea that serious art and creativity could use "pedestrian" elements like melodies became a fixture of art music. And by extension, all music that had artistic aspirations. Let me say it here: such a notion is pure and unadulterated bollocks (for proof, just ask most critics what their favourite avant garde compositions/tracks are, and I'll bet you that the majority are the more melodic pieces from that musician/composer's canon … but I digress).

 

For example Stor Eiglass has an abundance of melody. Does that "cheapen" it? Does it become something less? Is it suddenly devoid of integrity? Simple and short answer is "No".

 

Long answer: Jenkinson utilizes sounds and melodies, as he wants to. Nowhere does he have anyone saying "you can't use that sound – it's too commercial!" or whatever fuckwittery one can imagine in such a scenario. Equally preposterous is the idea that a sound – any sound – has greater artistic value than another. For example, I once sat through a "lecture" (by a pontificating fuckwit, naturally) where the integrity of "Found sounds" was the main topic. According to the fuckwit, certain sounds were artistically redundant, as they were overused either within popular music or within the sphere of daily life. In other words, they were too common. He advocated the discovery of sounds we generally ignored. Whatever they were … Choirs of rabid rats in a baked bean canning factory? Who knows?

 

What the fuckwit failed to note was the fact that context is a key part of art. "FOR GAWD'S SAKE, MAN, HAVE YOU – AS A PRETENTIOUS HORSE BOLLOCK OF THE HIGHEST ORDER – FAILED TO ADDRESS THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF JUXTAPOSITION???" was what I wanted to scream at him through a comically enormous analogue megaphone with such force that it removed his skin.

 

Before I become entrenched in this little war inside my head, I'll quickly return to the album: a Squarepusher album utilizes anything and everything that sound and music has to offer. Particular synth sounds, particular stylistic elements, production values: all are open to fair use in Tom Jenkinson's world. As a listener, this just works. As a critic, it could pose problems. For example, if I wore my traditional critic hat, I could draw attention to the Skrillex-meets-Frank Zappa of Kontenjaz. I could also then note that it seems to have "jazz" implied by its title, and proceed to talk about any jazz reference I could think of from Ornette Coleman to Weather Report (and that would be fair, wouldn't it, since Jenkinson is a bass player of the Jaco Pastorius ilk, innit). All of this would be drivel. I've just written drivel, but I did so on purpose, and ironically. I am a hipster. But I did so in genuine spite and anger. I am, therefore, a Dave.

 

So, as I was saying before that small journey of self-analysis and critic-hating, Jenkinson's unique blend of musical components makes for a stirring blend, complete with something compelling and a drizzle of the repellent. Frantic beats, sometimes seeming to lack standard, if any, time signatures, and rapidfire musical modules that go from the oblique to the warm 'n' fuzzy to the ever-so-slightly eerie or melancholy co-exist with synth patches that Will.I.Am has been using like a little weird metaphor machine for the past few years.

 

The result is as though Jenkinson has remixed himself into the pop charts of the past 3 years, and taken everything we take for granted as though it was something alien to be played with.

 

If we were to place this album within Jenkinson's own output exclusively, it certainly feels like a summary of all that has gone before embedded within an entirely new narrative. It's almost like one of those sitcoms when, for lack of a decent script, they create a framing device of some kind and proceed to show "the best bits" from previous shows when they had managed to cobble a script together. However, in this case, Jenkinson splices the scenes together in such a way that they are almost unrecognizable. They are, in effect, entirely new scene. For example, Kwang Bass feels like a remix of something from Feed Me Dead Things or Hard Normal Daddy. But what track(s) in particular? Your guess is as good as mine is. However, I can only say that I love it.

 

And so it goes for the whole album and I say again: I love it.

 

Some tracks will certainly appeal to listeners more than others, but what those tracks will be is down to each individual listener. There are tracks that will downright irritate some, while the same tracks will populate others' favourites. And there lies the real beauty of Squarepusher: his music is divisive, obstreperous, rambunctious, yet very handsome. We can forgive all those little missteps (as we see them) because he gets so many other things … RIGHT!

 


The Boring Facts (possibly)

  1. Tom Jenkinson wears a helmet thing in live performance these days.
  2. He plays the bass guitar exceptionally well, but not here.
  3. His music is released by Warp Records, which obligates us to mention Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, and Autechre. Job done.
  4. Damogen Furies was recorded live in the studio without editing, apparently. Huzzah, says I to that. The man's an octafish!

* The DPM Rating System
When we rate an album or concert etc we rate it on the "Huzzah!" system. A score can be between 1 and 3 huzzahs:
1 Huzzah! - The reviewer likes it. You should give it a listen!
2 Huzzah! - The reviewer recommends it - and is delighted it is part of his/her collection
3 Huzzah! - The reviewer strongly recommends it - and it has already entered heavy rotation on his/her personal playlists.

On rare occasions there may be a 0 Huzzah! review. The reasons will be explained in the article. On equally rare occasions you may even see a 4 Huzzah ... well explain that another time :)

We dont do negative reviews because we review what we like.



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