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