Squarepusher Just A Souvenir Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Feels like you're standing in a lift with Jaco Pastorious

Alex Forster 2008

While conflict is a state of mind that usually creates non-action because of its counter-balancing effect, in art, it can be a welcome situation for an artist to overcome; indeed the most thought-provoking work can often be the result of opposing forces.

The engaging dichotomy that reoccurs throughout the majority of Squarepusher's work, especially since 1998's Music is Rotted One Note, could be characterised as a futurist, post-rave impulse jostling with a formal training (and frightening talent) in freeform jazz. Though the organic and the electronic have never been mutually exclusive in Tom Jenkinson's world, Just A Souvenir offers perhaps the clearest indication that the party is indeed over. A regress to the Kaoss pad-assaulting excesses of 1997's seminal Hard Normal Daddy is not becoming of a man touted by sports sock-violating Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) as the best player in the world.

As befits an artist with unabashed prog tendencies, Jenkinson has a concept for his 11th record: ''a daydream about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra-gig''. Sticking to the blueprint Just A Souvenir feels like his most 'live' record to date: awash with sustained rimshots, those infamous bass slaps and at times listless guitar plucks. A whole half-way through the anoraks are treated to their first drum edit (Potential Govaner) though this is a restrained affair.

Though Jenkinson's music can at times occupy a certain esoteric level of abstraction - in whose hallowed halls walk avant-garde jazz bods and ironic rave kids - his talent for a pop riff and melody can always offset the more marginal moments. A talent that began on his debut record with the opening salvo, Cooper's World (Bird Land Mk2 anyone?), prevailed on the mutant two-step of 2001's My Red Hot Car and reaches fruition on The Coathanger; the album's second track. Never one for comfort zones; where previously pent-up frustration would be exorcised by a blizzard of amens, on Delta-V and Planet Gear (the more aggressive moments here), manifest as scuzzed-out, space rock.

Though it pains to write it about an artist responsible for music so beautiful, too much of Just A Souvenir feels like you're standing in a lift with Jaco Pastorious rather than dancing in a field with your mates.

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