Release Date: Mar 10, 2017
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, IDM, Experimental Electro, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass, Experimental Jungle, Drill'n'bass
The project is the brain child of Tom Jenkinson, better known as the hyperactive IDM artist Squarepusher . Elektrac is the second effort from the group, but it exists in great contrast to their debut, their latest effort being a live set of some of the greatest Squarepusher moments. For a musician who's continually pushed the boundaries of formula in electronic music, this artful journey is not surprising.
Squarepusher has always felt like a reaction to the limitations of being a band. Aside from the obvious fact that the man behind it, Tom Jenkinson, could be as dictatorial as he liked with no need for diplomacy, early material such as Hard Normal Daddy and Music is Rotted One Note seemed to act to bridge the gap between what could be accomplished with a band and how far electronics could be pushed to create something generally unique. Since then Jenkinson's career under the Squarepusher moniker has seemingly come full circle.
Introduced in 2010, Tom Jenkinson's four-piece Shobaleader One project set itself apart from his usual work as Squarepusher by offering up an earnest stab at pop music. Full of fuzzed-out, mid-tempo funk, processed R&B crooning and some genuine hooks, it was the kind of music robots might put on when they're feeling sexy. It received a middling response. 2017's Elektrac plays things a bit safer, instead giving us a live set of actual Squarepusher tunes -- essentially the greatest Squarepusher live album in everything but name -- and it's a real treat. The focus is on Jenkinson's earlier career, circa Hard Normal Daddy and Feed Me Weird Things.
Elektrac is the second album IDM legend Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson) recorded with his band Shobaleader One, a mysterious group of masked figures with names like Strobe Nazard and Arg Nution. While the first Shobaleader album (d'Demonstrator) contained futuristic electro-funk tunes that sounded nothing like the manic, jazzy drum'n'bass Jenkinson is usually known for, Elektrac features live renditions of tracks from throughout his sprawling discography. The selections mainly focus on uptempo, ecstatic numbers that emphasize Jenkinson's jazz fusion roots, showcasing the more human elements present in his music.
Squarepusher's Tom Jenkinson is not a man prone to inertia. Since his breakout in the mid-'90s with the frenetic avant drum'n'bass of Feed Me Weird Things and Hard Normal Daddy, his career has assumed a sort of pinball trajectory, bouncing from prettified electroacoustic music to solo bass noodling to a period spent composing for a robotic band (see 2014 EP Music for Robots), clinging to instrumental virtuosity as a guiding precept. In this respect, the live-band project Shobaleader One is simultaneously a clean break and business as usual, being both the start of a new phase and the point at which a few older ideas fully germinate.