- Typically dense and inspired by the dance floor, this new LP is a satisfying showcase for the Warp artist's singular talents.
- In most cases, electronic music artists, especially those connected to the club, are reacting to what's going on around them. On a basic level, some produce in line with trends, while others produce in opposition to them; lots of slow music leads to lots of fast music, and so on. It's possible, though, that an artist as singular as Tom Jenkinson is more in reaction to himself than anyone in his environment. Put another way, there aren't scenes of producers out there making Squarepusher music—the frenzied combination of jungle, drum & bass, jazz fusion, IDM and electronica Jenkinson has been developing since the mid-'90s—for him to get on board with or kick against.
Based on this assumption, Be Up A Hello, nine rave-influenced tracks recorded on old hardware, makes lots of sense. For starters, the last Squarepusher album, 2015's Damogen Furies, was, conversely, made on his own state-of-the-art software. Jenkinson has recently written ambient music for children on CBeebies, and his last full-length project, All Night Chroma with James McVinnie, was recorded on the organ at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He's also been working on Shobaleader One, a band formed to reinterpret old Squarepusher music. With all this in mind, a project like Be Up A Hello starts to seem both natural and artistically appealing—an appeal mirrored by Jenkinson's many fans, who've been dreaming of something like Be Up A Hello since he dropped a storming all-originals DJ mix as part of Warp's 30th anniversary celebrations on NTS last year.
The immediacy of rave music and parties is matched by the record's production, which was apparently written "in the mode of a diary," with each track put together in a single take. It feels like we follow Jenkinson across nine consecutive sessions, sensing his mood at the point he hits "record." He's at his most buoyant to begin with, as "Oberlove" and "Hitsonu" open the album with major chords, effervescent breaks and the feeling that we're jogging through a sunlit meadow in some cute RPG. With "Nervelevers" and "Speedcrank," clear album highlights, he's at his sharpest and most focussed. The breaks and acid lines on both are frankly incredible, Jenkinson using their heft and dexterity to make the drifting pads sound all the more alluring.
The pretty synth track "Detroit People Mover" finds Jenkinson in a period of calm and reflection, before his spirit turns sour and the album loses its way a little. The three-track run of "Vortrack," "Terminal Slam" and "Mekrev Bass" is at times impressive for its sheer WTFness—the beats and synths collide with ever-increasing speed and intensity, a soundtrack to an imagined bout of insanity. "Vortrack" craftily disguises its impending panic attack, but "Terminal Slam" and "Mekrev Bass" are in a hurry to hit their peaks.
Such is the stark change in outlook by the time we reach "80 Ondula," a beatless combination of filmic brass swells and aggy bass, that Be Up A Hello is unrecognisable from where it started. This is OK in some ways. The album seems like an authentic reflection of the artist following his impulses, and in doing so Jenkinson covers a large amount of the ground on which he built his much-loved name (although his bass guitar is a notable absentee here). Absorbing a Squarepusher LP in one sitting has always been for more adventurous or diligent listeners, but the dank final section means that, outside of more hardcore fans, Be Up A Hello will probably need to be navigated in exactly the right sort of mood. Still, it should be said: Jenkinson's decision to revisit the rave mostly pays off.
05. Detroit People Mover
07. Terminal Slam
08. Mekrev Bass
09. 80 Ondula