Squarepusher: Damogen Furies

The veteran IDM bloke goes uncompromisingly live and electronic at the same time; nice one, but how does it sound?

- British producer and bass guitar virtuoso Tom Jenkinson, widely known under his pseudonym, Squarepusher, is releasing a new album next week on Warp. The eight track long play is entitled Damogen Furies, and follows his 2012 album Ufabulum and the Music For Robots EP from 2014. As is the case with his previous releases, Jenkinson pulverises disperate elements from dance music and jazz in his idiosyncratic way. Squarepusher came to prominence in the mid-'90s, along with others on the Warp roster such as Aphex Twin and Autechre. The point of distinction Squarepusher offered was his superior bass playing, juxtaposed with the punishing harshness of his beats. He has managed to maintain this level of intensity on Damogen Furies, which is a continuation of the style that he has built upon on each of his releases; combining EDM, jazz-fusion, bombastic drums, hyper tempos, and a healthy dose of experimentation. Unfortunately (IMO), there is none of his masterful bass guitar on the album, having been created entirely on a laptop, in a similar fashion to Ufabulum.

Although the absence may disappoint some, the laptop is central to his live performance (certainly when he played Coachella) and the approach and process of song writting. The album was composed and recorded while Jenkinson was on the road during the last two years. He developed a unique setup, recreating his home studio. All recordings were done in a single take without any edits or overdubs. In his own words, Jenkinson explains that “through this record I aim to explore as forcefully as possible the hallucinatory, the nightmarish and the brutally visceral capacities of electronic music”. The man is true to his word, delivering some truly vicious tracks. As a consequence of his laptop setup and insistence on live, unadulterated recording, there's also sweat-inducingly unexpected moments: you can hear the random twists and turns, and the slippages.

When questioned about the objectives and purpose of his music-making, Jenkinson said recently that “for me, it’s about making music which represents what I see as the key attributes of a human being: fluidity, change, imagination, spontaneity, joy and fun, rather than these mechanical, static, repetitive, cyclical traits that are forced onto artists.” Indeed, his music exhibits these traits in spades. Following this philosophy, Jenkinson is deliberately challenging, and goes against the grain. In his words: “One way I can frame my music is, it’s a form of protest and those protests are against a number of different issues over the years but always some form of protest... there’s a smug professionalism that’s engulfed electronic music across the board. A subtle wave of conservatism has washed gently across electronic music over the last five years. One of the things the new record smashes against is that. In earlier days of electronica that was something I was intimately involved with, taking a stand against the mainstream world of music, and I still think it’s worth fighting against.” I tend to agree. To my ears, my of the contemporary electronic music being produced feels too clean, to the point to sterility.

Despite our philosophical alignment, I can’t rate Damogen Furies that highly. For all their wilful terror and physical assault, none of the songs really take hold. It's as though Jenkinson's focus on immediacy has robbed him of the ability to engage with a bigger, stylistic picture. There are half a dozen Squarepusher releaces which I find more far more engaging. That being said, for the thinking that's gone into his Furies alone I commend his efforts even if they don’t conform to my personal predilections. If I can't wholly embrace this record, at least Tom Jenkinson and I still meet in spirit.

- Hill Folk.

Album Details

Album Title: Damogen Furies
Artist: Squarepusher
Record Label: (Warp / Inertia)