REVIEW: Squarepusher: Ultravisitor
Squarepusher: Ultravisitor [Warp, 2004]
Three words? lazy electronic skittering
Yes, Squarepusher has released his first album in 3 years. If Aphex Twin has taught us anything it's that when an electronic artist goes on hiatus (in Aphex's case, there was a famine of full-lengths from 96-01), their music will emerge changed. If you're an Aphex fan you know that Drukqs was a huge departure from 1996's Richard D. James Album.
And indeed, for those people who know Squarepusher, his new release surely stands out from past years - and yet it is still not all that different from earlier sonic adventures. Squarepusher is well known as a wild card: two people will have differing opinions about him based on which of his many albums they have heard. Tom Jenkinson has been releasing music for 9 years and each song tends to be remarkably different from every other. He has gone back and forth from heavy electronic to a live acoustic sound, from house to jazz. Ultravisitor is most similar to Music Is Rotted One Note (1998). Both albums downplay electronic sounds and go for the timbre of real instruments and live perfomance.
Although most of Ultravisitor is easy to listen to, there are still some very hardcore tracks. Not only are there super fast paced cuts with synthesized instruments; some songs are physically difficult to tolerate. While "50 Cycle" and "Melenec" are some of the more abstract pieces on the record, they still hold together coherently. "Steinbolt" and "An Arched Pathway," meanwhile, are so full of distortion and deafening high-pitched tones that they're rendered almost un-listenable.
I think that these tracks turn people off of Squarepusher undeservingly. Playing Ultravisitor at a friend's house, the only times people took notice was during "
Steinbolt" and "An Arched Pathway"'s most hectic and dissonant moments. My personal favorites are the electro-heavy "Ultravisitor," "Iambic 9 Poetry," but by far the best track on the album is 9 minute 27 second masterpiece "Tetra-Sync."
Most of the 15 tracks on the album are fairly accessible with their fusion of conventional music with eccentric electronic IDM. For those who know Squarepusher, Ultravisitor is a comfortable addition to the Jenkinson library, and for those who do not, it's a compelling invitation to dig deeper.