Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello review – devilish, danceable return

Tom Jenkinson goes back to his mid-90s moniker and makes use of old electronic hardware in a fun, if bumpy, ride

Emerging in the mid-90s as part of the generation of artists defining Warp Records’ IDM sound, Squarepusher now presides over a discography that positions himself directly opposite the genre’s ideological associations. His dense, frenetic electronica interprets sonic complexity as a million open invitations, rather than as barriers to entry. Pairing machine programming with dazzling live performance and eschewing loftiness in favour of embracing the straight-up silly, his is a sound that presses its abundance of influences into something that can only be processed through movement. Drum’n’bass, acid and Essex rave collide with jazz, organ music and television themes to create something both devilish and danceable. It’s a high-risk, high-reward gamble that’s present once again on new album Be Up a Hello and, as with many Squarepusher releases, you’ll know where things start but nothing about where they’ll end up.

Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello album art work
Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello album art work Photograph: Publicity Image

Be Up a Hello is pitched as a return – not just Tom Jenkinson’s return to the Squarepusher moniker, but the project’s return to its days of yore. The loss of a friend he shared formative musical memories with and a broken wrist (every virtuoso bassist’s nightmare) prompted his return to old hardware. The album is the result of a disciplined stretch that saw Squarepusher churn out a track every day or so, emphasising a level of creativity that comes by way of rigorous dedication and subtle deviations. Inconsistent album sequencing aside, this one-take attitude imbues the LP with a jam-band quality that both makes and breaks it.

At the record’s best, tracks pelt off the starting blocks and hit top speed without ever looking back. Lead single Vortrack’s eerie, submerged acid is all blots and splatter like octopus ink, fathoms deep. Susurrous hi-hats slowly creep, disguising the imminent jetstream of drum breaks, cymbal crashes and screaming synths. There’s the thrilling toxicity of freaky acid cut Speedcrank, while Nervelevers, a glitch and breaks romp that never stops rolling with the punches, proves an album highlight. The opening tunes’ hooky melodics feel almost uncomfortably reminiscent of chiptune, and elsewhere there are pretty but unmemorable beatless passages, stretching the stylistic range of the record. Ultimately Be Up a Hello is a fun albeit bumpy ride through future-retroism, best felt in the moment itself.


Tayyab Amin

The GuardianTramp

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