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Friday marked the end of a short but momentous stint of Squarepusher shows that traversed Liverpool, Leeds, Brighton and Nottingham, ending at The Roundhouse in London. As the first dates he had played in eighteen months, Squarepusher, born Tom Jenkinson, was back in full effect with his highbrow brilliance, on the 25th year anniversary of esteemed 1996 album ‘Feed Me Weird Things’, displaying his most recent album ‘Be Up A Hello’, released on Warp Records in 2020.
Support came from Bristol techno/noise/hardcore supremos SCALPING, elusive acid-house duo and label heads Paranoid London, and jungle pioneer Ray Keith, a figure renowned for hardstep, techstep, darkside and jump-up styles.
Stepping out onto the stage, Squarepusher mesmerised his crowd with experimental acid for the first half; as one of the world’s most technically able (and self-taught) bass players, he soon began to forcibly litter more melodic parts on the red bass that he brandished, which was anointed in effects using pedals and hardware – a featuring part of the ‘Be Up A Hello’ album. Set off by the weightiness of the sub bass, he stood on stage like the pilot of a spacecraft, with The Roundhouse as his ship and the crowd as his passengers – occasionally pausing to encourage clapping from his audience.
In the latter half he switched up into a bass-fuelled rave tornado of breakbeat goodness and strobe lighting. Menacing bass plummeted from the stack during ‘Terminal Slam’ permeated by red lighting and strands of voltaic acid. Alternation between short bursts of chaotic fullness and stark emptiness warmed up the audience and led into the flow of things, veering into beats reminiscent of disjointed hardcore and presented in Squarepusher’s incongruous way. It was a refraction of British rave culture; dance music that can’t quite be danced to.
‘Meknev Bass’, a track brimming with the go-faster signals of Donkey Kong was mirrored with video game visuals that transported the audience through analogue city streets from a first person point of view. It wasn’t a set full of Squarepusher classics, but if anything it perfectly matched the hesitancy of being back in a crowd that hadn’t yet found its raving mojo again, filling every individual full of awe and wonder.
Watch the music video for ‘Terminal Slam’ below.