British avante-garde electronica artisan Squarepusher’s latest recorded effort is representative of the bigger picture into which it has been painted. Having overseen an experimental electronic renaissance throughout the 1990s, the Warp label spearheaded a new pinnacle of synthetic symphonists, giving us the likes of Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert and Squarepusher to name but a few. But now that Aphex et al’s days of scaring grandmas on the telly and conservative hacks in the tabloids have passed, the movement has reclined back to the underground to reflect.
It’s perhaps with this knowledge of the ebb and flow of musical trends in mind that Tom Jenkinson, the man behind the Squarepusher pseudonym, offers us “Just a Souvenir,” a record that is precisely what its title infers — a playful postscript that reflects upon the scene that spawned it.
Opener “Star Time 2” recounts electronica’s humble beginnings — a spiky house rhythm invaded by a ’70s synth melody that could have been lifted straight out of any of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s early microchip meanders. It’s as seductive as it is sentimental. However, Squarepusher’s trademark volatility soon rears its head: “The Coathanger” with aggressive ’80s vocoder and “Potential Governor” with erratic jazz-infused drum ‘n’ bass. Warp’s heyday may have passed and this may be dismissed as just a souvenir of those times, but, for its humble ingenuity, it’s the most brilliant way to remember.
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