Squarepusher
Be Up a Hello


3.5
great

Review

by LePsych USER (4 Reviews)
February 1st, 2020 | 30 replies


Release Date: 01/31/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Feed me retro things.

Tom Jenkinson has always been a hard bugger to follow. Ever since his arrival in the music scene in the mid-90s, he’s been one of IDM’s major players and set up standards with his crazy, speedy, technical and yet highly melodic drill n’ bass peppered with bass guitar playing skills that were rooted in jazz. Feed Me Weird Things (1996), Hard Normal Daddy (1997), Big Loada (1997) and Go Plastic (2001) took that formula to varying degrees, but with great results. By then, it seemed as if things couldn’t go wrong for Squarepusher.

Afterwards, things got much harder to follow. Releases got way more uneven and shaky, but it definitely wasn’t because Squarepusher was unwilling to experiment or take chances. If anything, many would say he took too many chances and most of his highly experimental output was received either with indifference or mixed enthusiasm. During last decade, Squarepusher decided to dip his toes in the EDM scene with releases Ufabulum and Damogen Furies, but both releases missed the mark in different ways. Ufabulum showed interesting signs of a new sound, but many of its cuts were pale imitations of the past. On the other hand, Damogen Furies’ new sound developments led to cheesy and corny EDM, where most of the songs resembled each other. All of its best moments were the times where Tom successfully fused this new sound with his old tricks, thus creating his own brand of jazzy nightmare-fueled EDM.

With both recent albums having a much different relationship with the past, Tom goes all in on his past with his new album, Be Up a Hello, which is a direct throwback to Squarepusher’s past. Exit the EDM antics and Squarepusher’s custom-built software, enter the vintage hardware and samplers from the past. But can Squarepusher from 2020 sound like Squarepusher from 1997, and would this approach work well? In true Squarepusher fashion, the answer is “yes, but…”. So expect very little innovation there, but imagination can at least be present.

The elements are almost all there for a vintage Squarepusher reunion party: crazy fast breakbeats, pretty and moody melodies, rave-like anthems and energy… all that’s missing to the party is the live bass playing (which is sadly missing due to him having wrist injuries). But instead of evoking the past from the early releases mentioned above, the album this release reminds me the most of is 2006’s Hello Everything, which came across as a consolidation of powers and a summary to Jenkinson’s sound palette, which came after two very experimental releases: 2002’s Do You Know Squarepusher and 2004’s Ultravisitor. Be Up a Hello serves an almost identical purpose than this album, which definitely makes this release sound more calculated and less spontaneous.

While most of the album revels in darker moods, the first two tracks from the record, Oberlove and Hitsonu, do a very good job at steering the music away from the darkness and shows Jenkinson at his most playful. While not the strongest moments of the album, they stand out in a good way and display Squarepusher at his least confrontational and most jovial. The melodies are upbeat and uplifting, recalling somewhat the EDM approach from last two albums, but with more interesting instrumentation and flair.

For an artist that made his name with violent and frenetic drum n’ bass, the high power moments of this album are surprisingly the tamest and less interesting portions of the album. Lead single “Vortrack” and “Speedcrank” both try very hard to mimic Go Plastic’s highly technical and violent sound, but neither matches the sheer intensity of that record and don’t have the melodic content or memorable themes to stand out, so they just harmlessly hammer away and leave no real impression to the listener. Terminal Slam is a much more successful venture in that heavier sound, benefiting from a much better structure, allowing the piece to breathe with alternating soft/loud passages and the complex drum programming shows a certain elegance missing in some of the album’s other cuts. Nervelevers serves us with a haunting atmosphere and an infectious acid bassline that offers the album an early climax.

The rare hints of a newer Squarepusher sound are heard in the more ambient songs from the album, which ditch the drums and succeed in reaching a cinematic level. Detroit People Mover is an instant highlight and shows how much Jenkinson’s ambient songwriting improved with time. It faintly recalls Feed Me Weird Things’ Goodnight Jade, but the latter song never had the lasting power and the heart-wrenching melodies this new song possess. It carries a feeling of mystery and loneliness that isn’t present anywhere in the album. 80 Ondula fares very similarly, but is shrouded with dread and desolation, stranding the listener in an unsettling decayed urban landscape while drowning in giant swathes of reverb.

Squarepusher’s retro outing is mostly a great album, except when 2020’s Squarepusher tries to lay the beats on thickly and becomes too technical. Jenkinson’s musical horizons have clearly drifted elsewhere with time and this album does a good job demonstrating it. He doesn’t have as good an ear as he used to for chaotic material, but he definitely became a better melodist. While IDM contemporary Aphex Twin’s Syro sounded like a 90s record done with modern techniques and a new ear for composition, Be Up a Hello unfortunately sounds like a 90s record made in 1999. It never reaches the same heights than this other album does, but it’s a good album for what it is. Anyone who liked Squarepusher’s vintage material should definitely give this a listen. If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll have a good time.


user ratings (40)
2.9
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
LePsych
February 1st 2020


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was better than expected.

Also whoops, formatting got a little messed up, but digging around I found out how to fix it.

Anyway here's some tracks from this:

Nervelevers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtSJA_U4W1U

Vortrack - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3kWYsLYuHc

mindleviticus
February 1st 2020


10096 Comments


Good review but if you take off your nostalgia goggles for a second, Ufabulum is very underrated.

I'll check this out today at some point.

Supercoolguy64
February 1st 2020


9297 Comments


Vortrack was aight but I think I'mma check this later if it's anything like classic square.

Revs kinda confusing, his previous works were meh because they replied to much on his old style without innovation, but this albums good because it's a full fledge throuwback to said old style?

Digging: Mudvayne - The End of All Things to Come

LePsych
February 2nd 2020


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I liked Ufabulum at first but the more I listened to it, the less I enjoyed it. I enjoyed most of the first half, but the second half kinda leaves to be desired. I liked Dark Steering enough, but I can barely remember anything else from the second half anymore. The only reason I had it rated as a 3.0 is because I thought Deviant's 2.0 review was slightly harsh, but in reality this album would be a 2.5 for me.

Supercoolguy64: That wasn't my primary point of contention for the review, but I guess I wasn't clear enough. The problem is that Ufabulum showed signs of promise for a new sound for Squarepusher and most of its bad stuff was an inferior copy of some of his older material, but Damogen Furies has the opposite problem. Almost all of the new attempts at reinvention sounded corny and cheesy as all hell, but when Squarepusher stuck to his old tricks, it worked and didn't sound like a blatant copy as in the previous album.

Thanks for the comments, I'll rework the review a bit more so things aren't as confusing.

MotokoKusanagi
February 3rd 2020


2523 Comments


oh cool a new Squarepusher

AnimalsAsSummit
February 3rd 2020


4737 Comments


Ill check it! Legendary artist.

Digging: Polykroma - Radiaphane

butt.
February 3rd 2020


7043 Comments


what the fuuuug is this album title

sounds cool tho will check

Dunpeal
February 4th 2020


4368 Comments


am i supposed to be enjoying this?

Digging: Blueshift - Voyager

LePsych
February 4th 2020


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That depends on whether you enjoyed Squarepusher's first albums or not. This is hardly the best place to start, I'd say check out Hard Normal Daddy or Big Loada first to know if this is for you or not.



Also thanks for the feature staff!

oltnabrick
February 4th 2020


38983 Comments


worst squarepusher

Digging: Three Knee Deep - Three Knee Deep

Relinquished
February 4th 2020


43532 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nah no way, he's got worse records than this cmon

bloc
February 4th 2020


60136 Comments


hurfledurflablum is one of the worst things ever

oltnabrick
February 4th 2020


38983 Comments


i mean Music for Robots is worse but thats an ep


& hurfledurflablum is now the 2nd worst squarepusher

LePsych
February 4th 2020


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I never dared listen to Music for Robots and having looked at the reviews, I'll probably keep it this way.

Relinquished
February 4th 2020


43532 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've seen plenty of robots play music in my day



they're better off playing 200bpm grindcore with pyrotechnic guitars

AnimalsAsSummit
February 4th 2020


4737 Comments


Music for Robots ain't even bad its jazzy as hell and pretty unique

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 4th 2020


52716 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

This might be a good excuse to revisit some of his other material and finally decide if Squarepusher is just terrible or not

Digging: SKYGAZE - BLOOM

Relinquished
February 4th 2020


43532 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he’s spotty but he’s definitely not terrible

anatelier
February 4th 2020


3175 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This was my intro to squarepusher and while I can say I enjoy it in spots, it’s also basically the same from start to finish

Digging: Ian William Craig - Red Sun Through Smoke

AnimalsAsSummit
February 4th 2020


4737 Comments


bout to dive in. this dude paved the way so hard respec even if its trash.



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