Music Reviews

Squarepusher

Do You Know Squarepusher

Warp

Squarepusher is hardly one to rest on his laurels. He released the spastic Go Plastic last year to mixed reviews; some misguided people thought its squelchy IDM explosions were too close to his early stuff, whereas astute critics like me thought it was just an angry dreamy masterpiece of robot music. But now here it is 2002 and he’s got another set ready for the stores.

It’s a two-disc thing, so let’s go with CD one first. This is 32 minutes of new studio music, seven songs’ worth. Sadly, this one seems like stuff that got left off Go Plastic. The opening title track is what happens when “My Red Hot Car” and “Plaistow Flexout” from that album got in the same matter transformer and were fused into one scary beast: it’s hip and hot and bubbly and contains some hyper-compressed d’n’b drillcore that is truly dizzying, but it breaks less new ground than a baby gopher.

A couple of these pieces are interesting and propulsive; “Anstromm-Feck” will mess you up but good, and “F-Train” contains the creepiest Squarepusher voice track ever under its ticky-slow beat. But the 11-minute “Mutilation Colony” is just a go-nowhere sound collage, and why is Squarepusher trying so hard to sound like Autechre on “Kill Robok”?

Still, though, nothing prepares you for the big surprise: his cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is too mannered and respectful. I never thought I’d say that about notorious bad-ass Tom Jenkinson, but it’s true: it’s a muted whispered thing, with too much of the pretty and not enough of the gritty.

CD two gets back to the wild stuff: it’s an hour-long live set from Japan, mostly taken from Go Plastic, and it’s impressive, to say the least. The ‘pusher is on fire here at times; his rendition of “My Red Hot Car” is really credible, and I prefer this faster sprightlier version of “Do You Know Squarepusher” to the one on CD one. (Although you kind of have to wonder how much he’s actually playing live and how much is DAT.) The disc does exactly what live albums are supposed to do: make the sympathetic listener wish he or she had been there to experience the show. The unsympathetic listener, though, will agree with my wife: “What is this horrible shit? Turn it off: NOW.”

The weird part, though, is how contemptuous Jenkinson sounds towards the audience. After he’s pummelled them for a half an hour with his angry metal machines and speakers that must have been the size of God, he somehow doesn’t think they’re worshipful enough, and starts bagging on them: “Let’s have some more fuckin’ noise than that! That wasn’t fuckin’ goo’enough! Come ON!!” He then pushes whatever buttons he pushes, and launches into another furious chilly masterpiece. This isn’t warm music, it tends to push away rather than draw in… and he’s all upset because people aren’t chanting his name? Dude: you must chill with that.

Having gotten that off my chest, let me also say that this is the most aural punishment I’ve ever heard an audience absorb. The second half of the disc is all disorienting abrasive stuff, screeching feedback, a lovely sort of ear-death – I’m surprised anyone survived, but Japanese people are used to this by now, with all the freaky free-form things they hear from Acid Mothers Temple and The Boredoms and OOIOO and Mad Capsule Markets. Still, though, it should be against the Geneva Convention to punish people through their earholes like that.

Warp Records: http://www.warprecords.com


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