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Squarepusher - Do You Know Squarepusher

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Artist: Squarepusher

Album: Do You Know Squarepusher

Label: Warp

Review date: Oct. 7, 2002

Thrill ’n' Bass

Tom Jenkinson has always been destined to piss people off. An electronic artist never afraid to step forward — or more appropriately, sideways — in pursuit of new electro terrain, Squarepusher is perpetually damned to baffle, frighten and fascinate.

Do You Know Squarepusher — Jenkinson’s latest release on hip Brit imprint Warp Records — is another ’Pusher record destined to get mediocre reviews, confuse listeners and provide a handful of genuine, if elusive, thrills. Packaged as a two disc set, the album consists of an EP-length disc of new material and a somewhat disposable, 60-minute live recording.

Rebounding a bit from the throbbing, manic madness that possessed last year’s Go Plastic, Jenkinson’s latest is an often fascinating, if frustratingly uneven record. In a way, Do You Know Squarepusher seems like a 30-minute run-down of the Squarepusher catalogue. The tracks vary greatly in substance and style, bouncing through a virtual jukebox of Jenkinson’s past and present — from hollow experimentation to searing beat collage. The short running time actually aids the disc by disallowing the inclusion of the sonic-wankery that often clouds Squarepusher’s releases.

Album opener “Do You Know Squarepusher” follows the path of Go Plastic’s “My Hot Red Car” by showcasing Jenkinson’s ‘pop’ element. A sputtering two-step complete with vintage-Warp synths and skewered vocals, the track rivals the best of label-mate Aphex Twin’s demented electro-funk sing-alongs. “F-Train” features a shifting, echo-chamber spoken-word manifesto slurred over a series of discordant pops and pangs.

“Anstromm-Feck 4” offers a return to the ‘traditional’ drill ’n’ bass previously pioneered by Squarepusher. A seizure-inducing, three-minute BPM blur, the track sets the stage for the epic album centerpiece “Mutilation Colony.” Cut-up organ, beats rising and crackling to silence — “Colony” is alternately beautiful and maddening, the summation of Squarepusher himself.

The album ends with a fairly straight-forward cover of Joy Division’s haunting suicide hymn “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” A grand production, the whispered vocals and ringing keyboards fill the track with a warmth missing from the metallic mass of Jenkinson’s work.

The live disc, recorded during a 2001 swing through Japan, showcases Jenkinson plowing through a set of his patented spastic beat cut-ups. Poorly-recorded for an official release, and punctuated by ridiculous “make some fucking noise” cries, the set will be of interest to only the most hardcore Square-heads.

Less than live up to the heights of albums such as ’98s fusion masterpiece Music is Rotted One Note, this latest release shows the modern Squarepusher as a schizophrenic, angry beat-freak fighting to avoid classification with a stream of multi-directional sonic adventures. Strap on your seatbelts, the ’Pusher is pissed.

By Ethan Covey

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