Squarepusher – Ultravisitor

SquarepusherJazz fusion; the merest mention can strike fear into the hearts of lesser mortals. But that shouldn’t be the case with Squarepusher (Tom Jenkins). His schizoid mashup of electronica, drum and bass and free jazz is either breath-taking or atonal noise depending on your viewpoint. Skilled as a jazz-trained bass player Tom blends this and hardcore techno noise into a myriad of forms. Some tracks are huge, shifting bleep-fests that leave my head spinning or are laid back, chilled ambience. This can even take place in the same track, for example “An Arched Pathway” which starts off as a buzzing electronic glitch-fest, only to finish as a distorted bass solo.

Ah, yes: the bass solo. Or solos in this case, because there are quite a few of them. “I Fulrum” sounds like a particularly melodic bass solo, but it’s still a bass solo. “Terta-sync” is a good track that just powers along and has a fairly conventional melody. At the start of the song, you can hear Tom addressing the crowd at a gig, but Ultravisitor isn’t a live album. Although there are parts where you can hear a crowd cheering, this is a studio album. An interesting idea and one which doesn’t grate as you’d expect because it enhances the organic instruments Tom plays especially when he’s drumming.

To get Squarepusher you have to realise that his is music that is being stripped down to it’s core fundamentals and then radically altered. There is no conventional verse/chorus dynamic, which even a lot of instrumental music sticks to. Start a song with a two minute drum solo (Circlewave)? Sure, why not? But just when you think this album maybe an atonal mess, something that’s as effortlessly gorgeous as “Iambic 9 Poetry” comes along and soothes you all over. Don’t get me wrong, probably everyone that reads this will think “Screw that, what he’s on about now? Can’t he just talk about the new Babyshambles album,” but you’d be missing out on something really unique. Ultravisitor is what scientists thought music would sound like in the 21st century.

Brief Squarepusher interview from 2001:

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