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Squarepusher, some guy on Pitchfork talking bollox and gear porn

April 19, 2012

A couple of weeks ago in an effort to find something interesting to listen to while driving around, swearing at slow drivers and fast traffic lights, I dug out Squarepushers Burning ‘N Tree album, a collection of early break the tracks on his own Spy Mania label. I was always full of respect but never a big fan. Three or so listens in and I started getting deeper and deeper into it (listen here or below), I ended up listening to it a few dozen times, the jazzy elements drawing me in and the drum edits gave up new details each time round. I had been put off Squarepusher by the Go Plastic  album. I found it so cold, dense and abrasive that even after repeated listens is all just meshed together in my mind as a rather colourless smudge, much like the albums cover. Maybe my listening tastes have changed over the years or I just dwelt on the wrong album because lately  SP is some of the only music that can maintain my attention during active listening, where music is the sole focus.

Not actively listening to music isn’t a sin or anything, it can give context or make fluffy think piece blog posts more substantial, don’t just take my word for it

What happens increasingly when I try to actively listen to music, screening out the rest of the world rather than having it on in the background while I do something else, is I become bored  by track three and instead I switch to working on my own music or working on a live set or devices. Not that this has been terribly productive apart from my live set work and God knows where that’s going. I’m not happy about this as my attention span used to be much better for these solo music head adventures. I got hold of Ultra-visitor (Link) and was blown away, like much of his material, it takes in the jazz influences some similar to what I’ve been dipping my toes into in recent years. Now I haven’t listened to anything too obscure, jazz wise, but I’m starting to appreciate the language a bit more so I find myself getting as much pleasure from the jazzy sections as the sonic manipulation parts. Any recommendations anyone can make to further my jazz education would be appreciated. Just as long as it’s not too arcane or some exercise in mental masturbation. Which I’m sure is an accusation plenty people have leveled against SP. Isn’t it true anyone doing anything different and  interesting, especially if it’s directly challenging, is going to attract people who will assume the worst of the creators intentions?
Take for example the pitchfork review of Ultra-visitor . The reviewer seems to delight in picking apart the man behind the music and his motivations while slipping in backhanded compliments to cover his ass. You should read the review, it seems to be more about the reviewer reinforcing his own credentials as if by criticising an artist as anointed as Squarepusher he is somehow elevating himself above him. Contrast that review with this great piece written in Stylus Magazine which captures very well the joy the reviewer had in listening to the album.
Also interestingly while tapping round the Internet scouring for all things SP I came across this article in Sound on Sound. This is very open and revealing piece going into some of his studio technique and has lots of pictures of where he has put his music together for the last 10 years or so (such as the image up above I won’t feature more as that would be too cheeky). He also talks, among other things, about the bias against excellent instrument players within electronic music that he perceived earlier in his career and how he pretended his dad was a jazz drummer just to justify the fact that he himself is one of the most technically proficient bass players in the world. I haven’t gotten around to checking out his latest works yet it seems I have a lot of catching up to do. I don’t mind slowly working my way through his back catalogue some missed and some misjudged. I given up all notions of remaining current there is far too much good music out there to get obsessed about regardless of release dates and whatever form the current electronic music arms race has taken.
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