Squarepusher Just A Souvenir(Warp) Buy it from Insound
Squarepusher a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson has flirted with revealing the creative process behind his work before: the Squarepusher Manifesto included with Do You Know Squarepusher was a glimpse into the mind of someone who takes his work very seriously indeed. Accompanying his new release Just a Souvenir is 'Just a Story', an altogether more esoteric look inside the mind of one of British Electronica's stalwarts. A daydream of coat hangers, Eskimo drummers and 'a cupboard full of granite spheres illuminated in a dull orange', perhaps the only thing more surprising than the narrative itself is that, listening to the album, the concept makes sense. The temptation here is to say its a return to 'classic' Squarepusher; though the jazz-influenced bass and drum combination prevalent throughout never really went away, in more recent years it has simply returned to the fore. The attempt to conjure up a 'crazy, beautiful rock-band playing an ultra gig' means that the instrumentation from track to track is much the same, and this is the one major change to the established Squarepusher sound. Indeed, if it weren't for Jenkinson playing every instrument, you could almost believe this were a live album.
And as with any good live performance, Jenkinson starts gently, with the breezy nonsense of Startime 2 and The Coathanger leading to A Real Woman, which sounds a bit like Jaco Pastorius covering The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop. With a vocoder. You'll either love it or hate it. In isolation I fall into the former camp, but an album full of this might have led to broken speakers and a snapped CD.
After this gentle start, the meat of the album gets a bit more serious as the distortion kicks in, the vocoder gets put away and the songs get longer. At times the record seems dangerously close to wandering too far into Jenkinson's day-dream, leaving the rest of us looking on as he noodles away on the bass in rapture. Thankfully the next hook never seems too far away and on the record's finer tracks (Planet Gear, The Glass Road) the relentless drive from one time signature to the next, as the roving melody gets more complex and the layers of sparkling synths more dense, is intoxicating.
The record fizzles out with several slower tracks and solo bass pieces that, whilst technically impressive, are nothing that hasn't been done before. It's nice enough but I found myself longing for the day-dream band to come back on for an encore, and with that Just a Souvenir reveals itself to be a solid record, up there with the best of Squarepusher's work - as any good performer knows, you always leave the audience wanting more.2 October, 2008 - 10:35 — Sam Draper