Music Reviews - Squarepusher: Budokan Mindphone

      Date posted: May 20, 1999

Budakan Mindphone

       Hot on the heels of his critically acclaimed album (at least, that is, for those sources that bothered to review it) Music is Rotted One Note, comes Squarepusher’s latest release Budakhan Mindphone. Appropriately subtitled a ‘mini album’, this is not a full-length production, and clocking in at just over 30 minutes, can be seen as complimentary release to its predecessor.

      For those of you unfamiliar, Squarepusher is entirely conceived, composed, and performed, (using a series of overdubs) by drum and bass pioneer Tom Jenkinson. However, on recent recordings programmed drum machines have given way to drum kits and percussion as part of a movement some have termed ‘reverse engineering’. To briefly explain: From 70’s synthesizers, to 80’s beat boxes, through 90’s programming- the history of electronic music has been the manipulation of technology which was originally created to mimic acoustic sounds. The idea to in turn reproduce this electronic music back on to primarily traditional instruments will certainly have a revolutionary impact on the music industry.

      For Squarepusher, this new approach has resulted in greater creative freedoms with song structure, and combined with Tom’s already virtuoso electric fretless bass playing moves him firmly into jazz territory. I remember when I first played cuts off of Music is Rotted One Note for a friend, he commented that is sounded like the Bitches Brew of drum and bass. While I can’t argue with this analysis, I would add that Tom’s work is that of a composer, and although improvisational elements take place, it seems that each piece has preconceived structure and direction.

      As for specific tracks on Budakhan Mindphone, standouts include: ‘Fly Street’ a good example of this reverse engineering discussed earlier. ‘Two Bass Hit’- a funky bass extravaganza, with an unusual amount of soloing. And the final track, ‘Gong Acid’- features Tom playing a myriad of percussive instruments, shifting the tempo and dynamics, while performing various polyrhythmic techniques. Simply put, it’s an awe-inspiring cut.

      The production value of the album is quite good, and all elements are clearly defined. However, some may find it a little up front and bright, the kind of recording that sounds loud even when played a moderate volumes. But by all means, don’t let this discourage you from purchasing what is undoubtedly another powerful and influential Squarepusher album.

Jon King

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