Monday, 20 June 2011

Hello Everything - Squarepusher

Jazz... I've never been a fan of jazz. It's surprising then that when it arrives in electronic packaging I accept it so readily. So eagerly. I suppose that this unexpected coupling of the electronic, one of the few styles of music that still retains most of its secrets, with something such as jazz which has just passed it's 100th birthday, offers a striking contrast of the new and the old, yet they work so well together. Or at least Squarepusher manages it...

Of course, it isn't quite as clear cut as this. Squarepusher doesn't simply take jazz and convert it into corresponding bleeps and whirs. Jazz just happens to be the prevailing influence throughout the album. A vast proportion of "Hello Everything" also emanates an 8-bit, space invaders style atmosphere - implanting images of 80s arcades, not least from some of the song names Squarepusher chooses to use such as "Planetarium" and "Theme From Sprite", which adds some complications. On top of this there's the raw energy and enthusiasm that's injected into many of the album's offerings. Take "Welcome To Europe" as an example, it simply does not relax its fast tempo and manic layering. Instead of relying on intermissions and bridges to create energy, Squarepusher achieves the same efect by having the song shift between multiple loops that differ enough to provide variety but not too much as to lose a sense of cohesion. It's a master display of dynamic song writing.

This same variety, same energy and same willingness to not resort to lazy song making is prevalent throughout "Hello Everything". The dark ambiance supplied in "Orient Orange" is a world away from the incredibly catchy "Planetarium". Squarepusher simply does not settle down, though he risked compromising a prevailing sense of "Hello Everything" as a complete album and, to an extent, did allow some of this sense to slip. In any case, the heavy jazz influence and sci-fi tone do wonders to hold the album together, without it I can't help but feeling that "Hello Everything" would become a bit messy.

Being even the slightest bit messy is not something that the album can afford to do. Squarepusher uses a tremendous amount of layering in almost every song on the album. The ability on the listeners' part to be able to search for and explore each track requires the very calculated, very precise kind of structure that is given to us. Squarepusher doesn't borrow from his electronic- brethren by constantly mixing up the drum patterns and bass to keep things varied. The more buried layers (drums, bass etc.) tend to be quite repetitive, leaving space for the more immediately audible synths to constantly change while retaining a strong sense of structure.

"Hello Everything" really is a very good album indeed, albeit just a little patchy in places. It's perfect blend of the old and the new make it a must have for any electronic-nut and well worth a look for anyone else.

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