Tom Jenkinson is hard. Don’t be fooled by the fluffy beard, the cute Essex boy accent. He’s difficult, frustrating, out of control. Better known as Squarepusher (appropriate for this man who pushes buttons), Jenkinson mixes up jazz, funk, acid-house, drum’n'bass, and whatever else he’s feeling, to create a sound like nails on a chalkboard or a skipping Slayer record. A sound that is incredibly beautiful.
Go Plastic, the latest release on Warp, is a spasmodic mind-fuck. Fast and furious with moments of melodic intimacy, it is music for the intelligent and adventurous. More than an album, Go Plastic is a wierd romp through the history of electronica and the crevices of Jenkinson’s twisted mind.
The album seems tame enough at first, comfortably starting with “My Red Hot Car”, a groovy two-step party piece. Danceable beats, catchy vocals, and a funky melody make it an ass-shaking winner. Sure, he shouts out the universal gimme props slogan, “what, what,” and the song is essentially an anthem to his dick, but it’s mixed up with enough irony to keep it cool.
And then everything goes to hell. The bass drops. Jenkinson throws you down like giant playing yo-yo with a ten ton ball. Gyrations take hold, a swarm of wasps start buzzing, sizzling, bleeps and boinks fall deep and hard. You’re in space. Ships blasting away galaxies that turn into zeros and ones, pixels on an arcade game, Pac Man on crack, or maybe MDMA, the world blown away with the Milky Way.
Another flick of the yo-yo. This time it is jazzy, smooth. But the album never stays straight for more than a few moments. The jazz beats get twisted, bubble-gum around a finger. Faster and faster, songs fly by and suddenly you’re under water. The sounds echoe, reverberate, all aqua and Atlantis, until it is communion. During the intricate “Go! Spastic”, Jenkinson teases listeners with an eerie church organ, quite a bit Phantom of the Opera, sexy and sinister.
He lets you know “The Exploding Psychology” of his mind. Harsh, frantic breaks breeze past at 300 bpm. Just when you think Jenkinson has raced ahead, lost you for good, he pickes you up with a gorgeous melody, android a cappella. And there is a plateau, pretty and swinging like summertime.
Squarepusher can’t keep up the pretty-boy purring for too long however, it’s just not his style. Once again Go Plastic becomes all computer blips, knobs, switches, freestyle jazz implemented with a dial. There is nothing steady. The music is awkward, but exciting. Beats start jack hammering, a TV without reception, the static almost unbearable.
Suddenly there are harps. You are in heaven or inside a music box. The low notes of a piano resound heavily. That’s when he screams this is “My Fucking Sound”, and it is obvious the trip is nearing an end. He blasts out feedback and distortion, anger and passion a la Kurt Cobain. He twists beats and throws in some funk and says this is what I offer. Then he slows it all down, like water dripping, booty slapping, deep and sexy R&B. And that is it. The sounds slowly trickle down the drain, leaving you exhausted, satisfied, and in desperate need of a cigarette.