Thursday, June 18, 2009

Squarepusher - Feed Me Weird Things (1996) (mp3, 128kbps)

I'm riding a strong wave of Squarepusher love right now, AND he just announced what the next project will be. So the second 'Artist of the Week' in my irregular series (started with Wayne Shorter), is Tom Jenkinson, a/k/a Squarepusher.

What better place to begin than with the very first record? Normally, I have no wish to deprive the artist of record sales, but this essential title does not really seem to be for sale. Not on iTunes and not on Amazon, other than for $80+ used. So, forget that.

This was not the first Squarepusher record I got my hands on. That was, of course, 'Hard Normal Daddy'. I always say the same thing about that record: If you don't have it, stop what you are doing and go get it. Stop reading this blog. Stop playing with your computer or phone. Go get the record. You will NOT be sorry. There are certain defining records in any genre, records that achieve the nexus of (a) unique creativity, (b) broad appeal in their time, and (c) lasting impact on other music. Hard Normal Daddy hits all three. It took the traditional idea of jazz and jazz fusion instrumentals from the 60's and 70's and connected it to rave and dance music in almost the exact same way rap and hip-hop connected to funk and r'n'b from the same era.

Feed Me Wierd Things retains fewer of the traditional elements. Yes, this is a 'long player', a full length record, as opposed to being a vinyl 12-inch stuffed into an anonymous white sleeve - DJ style. What this record firmly establishes is the painstaking and meticulous approach to rhythm and percussion that was not previously present in electronic music.

'His beats are made,' said Bono. And this record is where that begins. In earlier electronic music, the driving drum beats were loops which freed up the DJ/producer/musician/rapper to layer on his or her own, without the need of a live drum set. Also, the mechanical sound of the drum machine served as an anchor, thudding away in a constant beat - louder, really, than any other part of the music.

Squarepusher comes along and thinks, 'Those beats can be just as loud and driving, but they don't have to be the same over and over again." That fits with what a jazz drummer does with a rhythm; play around it and let it swing and it can keep the beat without repeating. The downside is getting a machine to recreate the nuance of human spontenaity would take someone who was willing to put in untold hours, secluding himself from the world in order to create process his music until it is just so; going drum stroke by drum stroke with everything programmed and perfect. Tom Jenkinson is the human/ghost in the machine.

Whether you are talking about the near chaotic blerps and schbleps of 'North Circular', or the cool, almost classical guitar feel of 'Squarepusher Theme', or the unrelenting killer melody that frames a drum frenzy on 'Theme From Ernest Borgnine' - those beats are mad. The following record may have been the one that broke through, but it is this first outing that introduces the noisy/obnoxious/avant garde streak in a man who is, technically and otherwise, a real musical genius.

  1. "Squarepusher Theme" – 6:20
  2. "Tundra" – 7:55
  3. "The Swifty" – 5:20
  4. "Dimotane Co." – 4:54
  5. "Smedley's Melody" – 2:33
  6. "Windscale 2" – 6:35
  7. "North Circular" – 6:08
  8. "Goodnight Jade" – 2:45
  9. "Theme from Ernest Borgnine" – 7:55
  10. "U.F.O.'s Over Leytonstone" – 6:39
  11. "Kodack" – 7:14
  12. "Future Gibbon" – 2:18
The link is in the comments.

1 comment:

MPomy said...