Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bass! How fast can you go?

Royal Festival Hall Clore Ballroom. 24apr09.

On the first appearance of real live human drummer Alex Thomas, the pre-programmed stuff takes a back seat in the mix. Y’know, for what might simply be termed an electronica show, Squarepusher’s set has much more in common with the hardcore punk of Discharge or Minor Threat, at points even the grindcore of Extreme Noise Terror or The Locust. It is certainly no surprise to learn after witnessing his drum work that Thomas earned his thumper stripes with Coventry death metallers Bolt Thrower.

It is often relentless and uncompromising stuff. It might leave some feeling they’ve been on the end of a sound beating or, more specifically, a sound-beating. Visual too, with the LED screens filling the stage around the players firing, flashing, oscillating and sparking on the command of the music.

photo by crazybobbles

Squarepusher himself, Tom Jenkinson, is a quite unassuming figure to be amongst all this; gently balding, neatly bearded and wearing the kind of black overalls one might choose for storming an embassy; man at SAS if you like.

The room itself with it expanse beyond the main floor and the hefty pillars means the show has a late night festival tent vibe and the room swells with expectation. Opening track Welcome to Europe stutters a bit under the weight of the bass taking over the track. However by the time Hello Meow appears, three tracks in to the eighty-minute set, the combination is ideal and enlivening. It is the real kick-start, only driven further along by the arrival of Thomas within his drum set.

Prior to this, and later in the set, it is just Jenkinson and his bass guitars working with, sometimes pummelling, the sequenced squeaks, synths and breaks. He is a virtuoso player, his fret, fretless and finger work barely comprehendible at his amphetamine canter. No thumb-slap humdrum troubadour he, this is hyper jazz designed to crash into the senses like a juggernaut making short work of a succession of bollards.



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