Squarepusher: Damogen Furies (take 2)

The IDM legend changes the plot again with this dizzying, fast-paced record that can be as exhausting as it is exciting.
Damogen Furies

If there’s a word that can describe Tom Jenkinson, it’s “prolific”. The electronic composer, best known as the man behind Squarepusher, seems relentless with his output. The guy just can’t seem to stop, nor does he seem tethered to one specific style or idea in the way that, say, Richard D. James is. Jenkinson seems game for anything, be it minimalist funk or acid house, and his unpredictability is both his greatest asset and his greatest curse as a musician. Nowhere is that clearer than on Damogen Furies, his fourteenth proper album. It’s an often thrilling, dizzying display of electronic aggression, but its “more is more” approach can be as exhausting as it is exciting.

Damogen Furies actually opens with something that could be called conventional, but it ends up being a comfortable oasis in a world filled with new ideas that Jenkinson gets out of his system as soon as he can. It would be a misnomer to call “Stor Eiglass” soothing, but its energy is palpable, fit for everyday consumption. Were the album to consist of seven other versions of this song, it would be something of a disappointment. Instead, Jenkinson lures us in so that the chaos can be unleashed. Song after song peaks and synthesizers become garbled to the point that their tones are almost unrecognizable. There’s a feeling of constant motion that runs throughout Damogen Furies, and this is where the problems start to pop up. As thrilling as the album can be, one starts to miss Jenkinson as a dynamic composer, and it’s possible for the album’s charms to wear thin. At times, one can’t help but wish for a resting point around all the chaos.

Still, this is Squarepusher we’re talking about, and Jenkinson is one of the best electronic artists currently working. At its best, Damogen Furies demonstrates Jenkinson’s gift for arrangement and structure, and the moments where he wrangles everything into a fully-formed piece are among the most rewarding in his catalog. New listeners may draw comparisons to the modern American iteration of dubstep (something Jenkinson would surely dismiss), but there’s something far more intricate going on here. Moments like “Kontenjaz” and “Baltang Arg” reach further back, away from modern electronica and closer to early electro-pop and even jazz, where the journey is often of greater value than the destination. It’s a testament to Jenkinson’s considerable musical talents, and it makes Damogen Furies a worthy entry into his considerable catalog.

It seems as if Jenkinson has found a new path to follow here, but he does that with every record. Still, it would be nice to hear a version of Damogen Furies that is, perhaps, a little more refined than the finished product he presents here. Granted, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, given Jenkinson’s propensity for leaving one project behind as he starts work on the next piece of music. As it is, though, the album impresses in fits and starts, and it’s enough to leave a listener wondering what he’ll come up with next.

RATING 6 / 10