As you may remember, any time that you tuned in partway through one of John Peel's Radio 1 shows, there was about a 15 per cent chance that he'd be playing a hardcore digital noise record - the sound that travels down a modem line mixed with amplified static and the noise of gears crunching.
The bassist and producer Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, (right) is one of the people who made those records. And "John Peel loved the bones off him", I think is what Mary Anne Hobbes said, introducing him to the stage at this concert, a double-header with The Raconteurs organised in the spirit of eclecticism by the BBC on their "official" John Peel day. It seems the feeling was mutual. As he sits himself down behind his laptop - the screens to either side of his workstation making the stage resemble a poky office cubicle all the more - we see that Jenkinson has styled his hair and beard in precise imitation of John Peel, circa 1970.
He proffers a chummy "How you doing?" before launching into the nimble, kittenish drum'n'bass'n' glockenspiel of "Hello Meow", the first track on his recent 10th album, Hello Everything. He doesn't say anything else all night, but it still beats the last time I saw him perform when, in the spirit of punk, I guess, everything he said to his audience was shouty, sweary and abusive.
It fits. Hello Everything was Squarepusher's most accessible and enjoyable album in a long while, mixing up sweet ambient tones and playful soundtrack funk tunes with the jungle racket.
He's no less than a virtuoso of the bass guitar, having found a way to fit entire melody lines into every bar of music which is up around the 150bpm mark. His fingers are frequently a blur. It's impressive to see, and those screens either side display random scrawls of white light as a visual analogue to the music, but other than that it's not a visual show. Best close your eyes, in order to properly marvel at the complexity of the tunes and absorb the absurd clatter of drums. Every millisecond offers new loud sounds for your listening pleasure. He cranks the volume until it distorts and overloads his digital processor until it stutters, playing ever faster and daring us to keep up. A man was kind enough to let me have a puff of what he'd been smoking, so I asked him what he thought: "I love it! It fills up every little space in your head."
But this full-force musical gale is as elemental as it is cerebral. And best of all is when the basslines level out into a regular, funky groove, so your feet can't help but move even while your mind races.
The Raconteurs were cool too.Reuse content