Review: Squarepusher @ Troxy – A Reflection

Art & Culture

Squarepusher is something of an anomaly within the world of electronic music. One on hand he is admired by the type of musical aficionados who don’t listen to orchestral music only when it’s provided as the backing for a Jeff Mills show. On the other, he’s played at 8am by a white guy with dreadlocks at an early morning rave on the outskirts of Cornwall. When I first saw him at his debut ‘Damogen Furies’ show at the Barbican earlier this year the crowd was a unique mixture of suave 60-somethings who dressed like your history teacher in a Christian Dior suit and groups of ravers wearing helmets as fashion accessories. I’m not entirely sure of which camp I found myself in but I’d like to think a nice mixture of the two. 

Squarepusher said on BBC 6Music of his new album Damogen Furies that his music was essentially a protest to an electronic music scene that had become stale, somewhat rotted by one too many 4/4 odes to the glory days of garage. I agree with this statement in 50/50 measures. Yes it’s indeed very hard to find a producer as accomplished as Squarepusher who has gained the amount of success he has by making the music that he does. However, simply put, if you can’t find the type of music that you like in an age of musical instant gratification then you either aren’t searching hard enough or have developed something of a colossal ego. Jungle, hardcore and classical music are stereotypically enjoyed by people who may think slightly higher of themselves with the reason being that they are simply able to comprehend what is being played, albeit on opposite ends of the musical spectrum. I mean, it didn’t gain the name ‘IDM’ for nothing. 

Squarepusher’s show at the Troxy wasn’t concerned with any egotism or that horrible term IDM, it was a celebration of rave and hardcore in all its forms. Fully curated by Tom Jenkinson each artist that littered the line-up seemed to represent a single individual influence that amalgamate in Tom’s productions, and have done over the course of a 20+ year long career. The Comet Is Coming represented the free –flowing electronica infused jazz that is most notably heard on tracks such as lambic 9 Poetry and Quadrature. Then you have acid-house stalwarts 808 State representing the huge influence that early-90s house and rave culture has on Tom Jenkinson. 

But of course what Squarepusher is most known for is his unique ability to make the listener feel as though they’re simultaneously becoming the physical personification of euphoria while having a brain aneurism, and thankfully that is showcased in abundance. Firstly, Goldie’s both pivotal Metalheadz label is given the tribute it deserves as Ant TC1, Source Direct and Jubei chart the timeline of drum ‘n’ bass as they celebrate the ‘Early Years’, ‘The New School’ and the label’s history itself with Jubei’s ‘Headz History Set’. And secondly there’s Squarepusher in two of his musical guises; his full live band outing as Shobaleader One and Damogen Furies, the lone live A/V showcase of his newest album. 

Although they first formed in 2010 with the album d’Demonstrator, Shobaleader One’s setlist tonight comprises of the 95 – 99 compositions of Squarepusher himself, performing live imaginings of tracks taken from Hard Normal Daddy and Squarepusher Plays. Now, I feel as though I’m somewhat cursed with seeing Squarepusher perform in full band form. In the three times I’ve had the opportunity to I’ve experienced two gig cancellations and a motorway closure. Saturday night was no exception as a Comic Con-related delay made me unable to catch Shobaleader One in time, for which I’m both sorry for and will never forgive myself for. 

As I wipe the sweat from my brow upon entering the venue much later than planned it’s a short while before the colossal cube shaped A/V installation in front of me illuminates with what looks like the Ceefax holding page on acid (a nod to his brother perhaps?). Kicking off his set with the pounding 'Stor Eiglass', a track that I may literally owe my life to as it was used to wake my friend up during an overnight drive to Glastonbury through the summer, I immediately realise this is a very different experience than his Barbican show earlier in the year. This was Squarepusher as it was supposed to be seen and heard, not appreciating it sat down but struggling to dance to it stood up. As he fired through personal album favourites 'Rayc Fire 2' and 'Exjag Nives', experiencing an ecstatic reception with every use of the amen break, Jenkinson may have proved why he sees his music as a protest. Via the hauntingly atmospheric 'Baltang Ort' and the astonishing 10-minute long 5-string bass solo to close his set you see that Squarepusher defines such an odd and unique space within electronic music that by default it is the antithesis of what’s common in electronic music today. Keep up the good fight.

Photos: Gaelle Beri