This is the prolific Tom Jenkinson’s sixth Squarepusher album for Warp, and still the creative fire burns brightly. He remains an artist whose work demands to be heard, its direction far from predictable and its style never set in stone.
That said, Jenkinson seems to be moving to an improvised form of melodic drum and bass, softening the sound palette as he does so. Hello Everything, then, lacks the confrontational sharp edges, but stops some way short of becoming easy listening.
The first few notes confirm Hello Meow as a rare commodity, a potential single with its catchy hook. Perhaps that’s taking things a bit far – after all, drum and bass has never been a staple of the daytime airwaves – but the track recalls the jazzy ambience that artists like Alex Reece brought to drum and bass in the mid 1990s.
So a friendly sound it may be, but peel back the layers and a keen sense of structure is revealed, along with delicate touches of orchestration. Vibraphone motifs drift in and out of the picture, the breakbeat rhythm chatters and crisply propels things along. This is the case elsewhere, with no sign of the industrial sounds that often crop up in Jenkinson’s frenetic live shows.
The delicate scoring and light beats that characterise tracks such as Welcome Europe are complemented by warm, funky bass loops and improvised, synthesised treble lines. Harmonies are often complex and fast moving, the music airborne and nippy.
Just when you think you’ve cracked a Squarepusher blueprint however, things take a more sinister turn. Vacuum Garden is more a noise track than music and is a disquieting experience, an enemy plane passing overhead. This spills over into Circlewave 2, where scattered drums and a languid guitar line take a while to lighten the mood. Once achieved a Latin-inflected improvisation takes over, loosely based on Hello Meow, and the warmth returns.
Plotinus, meanwhile, combines Squarepusher old and new, with a beat that zips along at well over 160bpm, the overall sound largely ambient to start with, but as softly shifting harmonic patterns compete with a fast, softened bass sound the drums start to takeover, with signs of the infamous “drill and bass.”
Once again this is a thought provoking and stimulating listen from Squarepusher, continually developing his style and surprising in his lightness of touch and inclusion of Latin and funk influences. It will be interesting to see where this takes him next.