Release Date: Aug 17, 2009
Record label: Warp
Getting called a virtuoso or mad scientist comes with some heavy baggage for a musician, so it says a lot about Tom Jenkinson, who records as Squarepusher, that he's been repeatedly labeled as both. Getting tagged with these contradictory stereotypes-- a classically trained workhorse mastering the canon versus an improvisational, intemperate tinkerer dismantling the rules-- goes a long way toward describing the Warp mainstay's musical output. He can sound technically brilliant and wickedly provocative at times, whether it's with restless, distended breakbeat patterns, buoyant bass-heavy fusion excursions, or airy combinations of these and other styles.
I play the bass guitar. I put a lot of time into it and fancy myself to be above average. I also just had the cold, hard truth that I will never even be half the bassist Squarepusher is rubbed in my face for forty minutes by his Solo Electric Bass Vol. 1. I’ve always known this somewhere in the ….
It’s not like this is entirely out of left field—we’ve been hearing Tom Jenkinson’s experiments with live instrumentation since Music Is Rotted One Note, an album now heralded as one of the Squarepusher classics. His electric bass playing was a central part of Ultravisitor as well, and is one of the reasons that Jenkinson tends to be put on a pedestal above many other electronic artists—despite the fact that he’s a hell of a beat programmer, he can also play what people consider a “real instrument”. In fact, as Music Is Rotted One Note showed us over ten years ago, he can play a few.
Tom Jenkinson’s process of disentangling himself from the world takes another step forward on Solo Electric Bass 1, his latest outing as Squarepusher. The performance is exactly as the title suggests — Jenkinson, alone with his bass, playing in a club in Paris, committed to tape in September 2007. It’s a lonely album, recorded at low volume, with playing that crawls to a whisper and then bloats into a puffy slap bass fracas.