Music

Squarepusher: Solo Electric Bass 1

Solo Electric Bass 1 effortlessly careens from frenetic rhythmic études to moody atmospheric pieces that veer dangerously close to random instrument plucking,


Squarepusher

Solo Electric Bass 1

Label: Warp
US Release Date: Import
UK Release Date: 2009-08-17
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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.

Obviously, Jenkinson knows he can play as well. It takes some serious belief in oneself to release an album that is entirely made up of live performance of a single instrument. Yet, that's exactly what we have here, in the form of Solo Electric Bass 1, the most obvious foray into jazz music that Jenkinson has yet attempted.

Solo Electric Bass 1 sounds exactly as you'd expect it to. It effortlessly careens from frenetic rhythmic études to moody atmospheric pieces that veer dangerously close to random instrument plucking, and seems to make perfect sense while doing so, if only because anyone who hears it will already be familiar with the frenetic style Jenkinson brings to his electronic music.

Still, the purity of approach is what could most surprise someone hearing Solo Electric Bass 1 for the first time. Despite the fact that it is, as the title would indicate, an electric bass, Jenkinson makes the conscious decision not to put any effects on it. This is not, say, a Tim Reynolds, whose solo work uses pedals and effect boards to turn his guitar into instruments not immediately identifiable to the human ear, often relying on the sound of many hands playing through expertly-timed delay loops. There's no doubt that Jenkinson knows how to pull off tricks like this, but he chooses not to. What his audience hears doesn't sound all that different from what they would hear if he unplugged, despite the obvious volume difference.

The tracks themselves are nameless save for numbers, giving the impression that Jenkinson's creation was an impromptu one. Further confusing matters is that the numbers are non-sequential, which may or may not mean that one would have to rearrange them to hear the order in which they were actually played. Given the opacity of approach, however, Solo Electric Bass 1 flows like an album should flow, what with highs, lows, and lots of pseudomelodic jazzy noodling in between.

There are some highlights, particularly the moments in which Jenkinson's celebrated sense of rhythm comes out to play -- the seventh track, "Seb-1.03", builds subtly to the one place on the album that could truly get your head nodding. Opener "Seb-1.01" is lovely and melodic, lulling listeners into a meditative zen state before jarring them out of it with dissonance, and closer "Seb-1.12" hits the fasts and the slows with equal ease, summarizing the album nicely.

Still, it's impossible throughout Solo Electric Bass 1 to escape the spectre of the "vanity project", given that the music contained on the album has such potential to alienate the typical Squarepusher listener. It's just as likely to bore as to thrill, and while Jenkinson is clearly demonstrating his love for his instrument, he's not displaying an awful lot of emotion for anything else. It's not an album that goes deep into the psyche, it's an album that makes a case for appreciation of the purest manifestation of the electric bass. Some of Jenkinson's fans will find it endlessly fascinating, and some might swear never to buy another of his albums without hearing it first.

Most, however, will hear it, shrug an indifferent shrug, and let it collect dust on the shelf between Music Is Rotted One Note and Ultravisitor.

5
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.