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Search The Line of Best Fit

Squarepusher – The Roundhouse, London 30/03/13

03 April 2013, 13:50 | Written by Thomas Hannan

Squarepusher’s fitting choice of support act The Bug have reportedly gotten on board doom metallers Sunn O)))’s soundman for tonight’s trip to the ever-splendid Roundhouse, which means we’re only in for one thing – bass so loud that earplugs become instantly redundant, this being a noise that seems to find its way in through every pesky pore.

It’s hugely fun throughout, all the more so for the presence of a cast of guest MCs including the excellent Flowdan who provides a welcome human element to Kevin Martin’s overpowering, otherworldly dub. Between songs, they implore us to do everything from “kill all the politicians… and paedophiles” to wave our lighters in the air like we’re at an R.E.M. gig, the latter of these peculiar requests duly taken on board by the now nearly deafened but suitably impressed crowd. As for the former call to arms, it’s hard to tell, but the audience were so eagerly eating from out of The Bug’s hands that they’d quite happily have been led on a post-set murderous rampage.

What we got however was something infinitely more nuanced. Though The Bug didn’t make use of it, the massive lighting rig due to be used to dazzling effect by Squarepusher provided their set with an ominous backdrop before Tom Jenkinson immediately made feel like home. This must be how Ufabulum, his most recent, thirteenth LP, sounds in his head; blared at an imposing volume and flashing like a warzone. That it is a better experience than merely listening to the (actually pretty fine) album to oneself isn’t in doubt – it sounds and looks amazing, but whether it made for a truly spectacular gig isn’t as easy to say.

In a few senses, spectacular is a perfectly pertinent word for what went on here. From the video screen Jenkinson wears on his head and the baffling array of huge, choreographed lighting that makes up the visual spectacle to the cacophonous, unfathomably densely layered electronica that provides the sonic thrills, it sure is a spectacle, and there’s no doubting it. Towards the start of the new record – which is played in full tonight – folks seem more than content to let the jaunty likes of ‘Unreal Square’ and glacial ‘Stadium Ice’ do their thing whilst they simply watch on, mesmerised. As Ufabulum becomes more self involved though, such as on the drawn out murmurs of ‘Drax 2’, the same souls seem to struggle to enjoy it quite so much. It’s almost as if we’re meant to stand and admire the sheer intelligence to all that’s going on, rather than become involved in it ourselves. It turns people in to fidgeters, rather than dancers.

The best Squarepusher gigs I’ve seen have felt the opposite – no matter how clever the music, it’s always managed to make people move. Perhaps Jenkinson has simply moved on, which is fair enough – I’d rather see people this far in to their careers try something out than retread old glories. It’s just that when he does show glimpses of the Squarepusher of old, returning for an encore that confirmed him as amongst the best electric bass players on Earth and managing to skew the shit out of familiar numbers like ‘UFOs Over Leytonstone’, the endorphin levels in the room raised markedly. People moved.

Perhaps, when more familiar with the newer material, that’ll happen with the Ufabulum tunes too but hey, when we’re able to enjoy it as much as we admire it, gigs don’t come much better.

Photograph by Howard Melnyczuk. See Full Gallery here.

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