His reputation precedes him. Often name-checked in the same sentences alongside Warp’s other famous crackpot/genius Aphex Twin, and usually (somewhat unfairly, I think) lumped in with other garish drum n’ bass/rave meatheads, Squarepusher is a frightening proposition. Before the disc is even out of the case you expect to have your speakers blown to bits under a barrage of nose-bleed techno, as small children run for cover… such is the power of hyperbole in the music press. OK, deep breath…
A dripping tap, processed through so much reverb it sounds like it’s being bounced in from the other side of the Grand Canyon starts “Song: Our Underwater Torch.” Skittering snares, also soaked in reverb, beat unconventional rhythms in the darkness. A beautiful church organ coda, so fragile it sounds like [INSERT SOULFUL DEAD ROCK STAR HERE] composed it on their death bed, seemingly floats to the surface. Surprisingly, this has more in common with Godspeed You Black Emperor! off-shoot A Silver Mt. Zion than the aforementioned Aphex Twin! Indeed, if ASMZ’s Efrim is still mourning the death of his dog Wanda, then I suggest he source this EP as soon as possible.
Only, of course, if he can stomach “Decathlon Oxide“ ‘s swirling drum n’ bass, with its hideous sucking synth noises and disturbing cheap horror flick ambience. “You’re Going Down” seems to defy its aggressive title at first, beginning with a light jazz ripple of drums, xylophone, and processed synth effects zapping off into the ether. After a minute or two, this is violently disturbed by sleazy slapped bass, violent distorted snare samples and some weirdo threatening us over the phone. This interlude lasts for all of thirty seconds, before the song reverts to its calm jazz of before. Bizarre.
“Cranium Oxide,” like “Decathlon Oxide,” either contains samples from a bad horror movie, or was created as a soundtrack to one. Despite being only 32 seconds long, it is truly terrifying, featuring a disturbing sample of a teenaged girl screaming for her life underpinned by sinister short wave radio frequencies.
Of the three artists contributing remixes to this EP, I would say Yee-Kings’ take on “Circular Flexing” is the best. I have no idea who Yee-King are/is, but the cut-up of live drums is fantastic, turning cool jazz kit playing into frantic breakbeats with Gallic synth phases over the top. The appearance of Autechre (under popular guise AE) will certainly whet the appetite of some, and the duo don’t disappoint, playing in the style of their Peel Session releases (i.e. dark glitch stuff). The stomping beats of the Wagonchrist (a Squarepusher alias, I think) remix are pretty cool, breaking occasionally for nifty electro flutters and capping one of the best EPs I’ve ever heard.
Written by Andrew Collier.