Tom Jenkinson, the devil-with-a-sequencer who also answers to the surname of Squarepusher, is back with his latest slice of impossibly difficult electronic art pranksterism. The cheekily-titled Do You Know Squarepusher?
expounds upon Jenkinson's schizophrenic aesthetic while implying a regression to his wayward drill 'n' bass ways.
Like a disillusioned carpetbagger, Jenkinson lets his mind wander a bit this time out, making Do You Know Squarepusher? his most diverse collection of songs to date. The title track is the slow-rolling g-funk of Dr. Dre, tape-delayed and hotwired to sound like a digital train wreck -- all frazzled motherboards, chopped-up vocals and skittering breaks. "Kill Robok" slithers like a polyurethane snake, its scaly belly torn to pieces by hydrochloric-dripping beats and abstruse programming, "Conc 2 Symmetriac" is a peaceful, albeit brief blast of avant-garde ambience, while the slow-burning album centerpiece "Mutilation Colony" incorporates elements of free-jazz, illbient funk and gender-bending neo-classical into its damagingly claustrophobic oeuvre.
In a further attempt to bolster his reputation as one of the most innovative recyclers in music history, Jenkinson pounds the Wax Trax! Gothic-industrial pulpit on "F-Train" and digs deep within his own memory banks to pump out some frantic drill 'n' bass circa Feed Me Weird Things on the psychoid "Anstromm-Feck 4", while his dreamy, nearly straightforward rendition of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (replete with his own vocals!) is both subtle enough and chilling enough to have been included on A Means to an End: The Music of Joy Division. But as scheme brigands go, Jenkinson's still top class.
The second disc in this package is a live show recorded during Jenkinson's world tour in support of last year's stellar Go Plastic. While it might at first seem like an obtuse or just downright silly concept, Alive in Japan solidifies the notion that Squarepusher's material is even more catastrophic in a live setting. For some sixty minutes, Jenkinson is allowed to play the role of the uncontrollable electro brat, throwing spastic, beat-infused hissyfits from within his heavily-wired electro-playpen -- and as he bounds nimbly from acid-drenched drum 'n' bass to expurgated jazz-metal, you'll get the distinct feeling that he couldn't be happier if you set him on fire and let him rumble through a lumberyard.
The twisted and sundry mix of styles and textures on display here renders the question posed by the album's title all the more ironic. Jenkinson has clearly realized this, and seems to revel in the album's willful obfuscation -- which all but guarantees that when asked Do You Know Squarepusher? your answer will be "no".