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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Track of the Moment: 4001 by Squarepusher

Stanley Kubrick is actually alive, and 30 years younger than people think

You probably haven’t heard of this artist, although you probably should have. So I’m going to throw on my Ray Bans, pull up my cut off jean shorts, and take my fixed gear bike over to Starbucks to write this on my Mac.

Now, I’ve only heard of Squarepusher a few months ago, but he’s apparently been releasing music since the mid-1990’s, with 15 albums and a ton more singles, eps, compilations and remixes. I can’t comment on all of his stuff, because I’m a human being who needs to make 2 of these articles a week, along with a rap article once a week, but I will talk about his new album. And let me tell you something – it’s fantastic, if you can handle it.

When I say “handle it”, I’m not talking about how much bass or Skrillex-like wobble that he throws at you; Squarepusher is the kind of artist that will make the average person cringe and old people say “you call this music? In my day, our musicians had class and spent 90% of their day drunk.” He’s heavily, heavily influenced by jazz, and not in the Flying Lotus sense, where he just incorporates jazz drums, horns, and strings into the mix. He’s pure acid techno, and have no doubts about that. But at some point, if not for the entire song, Squarepusher will make his track devolve into randomized madness, with random stops, cuts, sounds, pitch shifts, and speeds. It’s the very definition of jazz; organized chaos and experimentation. On top of that, Ufabulum features something new for him – there’s no live guitars or drums; it’s all from his djing equipment.
Now I’m sure he’s a fine musician, and is solid on a guitar, bass, or on the drums. But on this album he shows off just how amazing he is behind the boards. I’ve tried a little DJing before, and can appreciate good technical ability when I hear it. And when you listen to Ufabulum, you can tell that the amount of knob-twindling he needs to do make all of those sounds happen is impressive. It may sound random, but a lot of what he’s doing makes sense from a musical standpoint in the song. All of the interruptions and random sounds are relatively on beat, and seem fitting for the tone, mood, and style of the song. It’s fairly inaccessible, even coming from a guy who likes Lil B, but it’s definitely worth your attention, and you can take away a lot from the album. Give each track a listen, even if the 10 track album is a solid 51 minutes long of seemingly random chaos. In fact, it even kind of grows on you after a few listens.

I can’t recommend this to everyone; to most, it’ll sound like an 8 year old playing around on a mixing board. But if you dig deep and listen close, you’ll find some gems like “4001”. It’s a great introductory track to Squarepusher’s current direction and what I imagine is his general sound (I didn’t do a whole lot of research, cut me some slack), which is probably why he put it first on his album. It’s an echo-y drum and bass track with some ethereal synths. Then about a minute in you get the random sounds and cuts I was talking about before a short lull. Then it goes back to the opening sequence and quick breakdown, but he hints at what’s coming next with a few twists right before it. Then comes in the massive bass and soaring synths, before coming into more of the experimentalism. It’s a good track to cut your Squarepusher teeth on. If you’re looking for some more accessible stuff by him, check out “Unreal Square”, “Stadium Ice”, and the very orchestral “Red in Blue”. If you’re a brave soul, check out “The Metallurgist”, “Dark Steering”, and “Drax 2” for some crazy djing.

Apparently, his lawyers are pretty damn good at making sure no videos make it to Youtube, so I'm going to have to share "Dark Steering", because the video is pretty cool and it's a solid song. Please don't be mad at me.

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