Squarepusher - Hello Everything
Experimental electronic music often feels like modern art. So-called Intelligent Dance Music and drill ‘n’ bass, especially, have never been able to fully escape the slightly ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ view taken by some critics. In the same way that the famous hues of Yves Klein’s monochromes could, theoretically, have been created by mixing a few random paints around, it’s not too hard for the less-discerning listener to imagine the intricate rhythms and beat-slicing of Tom Jenkinson/Squarepusher’s recent work to be the output of a few automated, randomised bits of software.
The truth, of course (and the reason why International Klein Blue probably wasn’t taken from a tin of Dulux), is revealed in the often subtle but relentlessly present humanity -- something which Hello Everything, Jenkinson's latest album, has by the bucketload. This is authentic Squarepusher; machine-gun snare rushes replaced by cheesy bass-lines and more amen breaks than mid-90s Manchester.
Released before the album as a digital-only single, Welcome to Europe bears an audible resemblance to material off the classic Hard Normal Daddy (that slidey synth was definitely on there somewhere), while other tracks could have been taken straight from the distinctly old-school 1997 compilation Burningn'n Tree. Come to think of it, Planetarium conjures up memories of Aphex Twin's 54 Cymru Beats astonishingly well. What does all this point to? Lack of originality.
Of course, this could just be comparative to Jenkinson's more experimental work, of which innovativeness almost became taken for granted, but it's a bit of a let down. Perhaps IDM is the thinking person's dance music, but there's only so much you can do with one five-second breakbeat -- to carry on trying to innovate with something so stale is bound to end in failure.
Still, there's a lot to be said for going retro -- who needs scary, reverb-laden soundscapes when you can make an album with funk this undeniable?