Squarepusher // Ufabulum // May 14 // Warp
Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike IDM? Mostly because it’s one of those tags that aren’t even a genre. Intelligent dance music? No such thing. All the best dance is primal and rather stupid. IDM producers are basically electronic music obsessives that make electronic music that doesn’t fit into dance category, you know, like some far out post-dubstep. I’m sure some people will go and say that IDM exists and even say that it still lives. Someone is just about to tell me that James Blake’s Klavierwerke is IDM. Yeah, fuck off. IDM is merely taking electronic music out of the dancefloor and giving it emotion and life of its own. Our man Squarepusher here is flogging the same dead horse for decades, what’s so IDM about that?
Tom Jenkinson comes from Essex and has released over a dozen LPs and EPs in his career that helped to establish his Squarepusher alias as one of the unquestionable leaders of the IDM and breakbeat scene. Ufabulum is a promised return to his roots following few albums that were not only received coldly but removed him from the public eye completely. Ufabulum then does the brave thing and goes back to where it all started, something that artists never do. For a good reason as Ufabulum feels out of touch with reality after first few tracks. Squarepusher is absolutely unconcerned with things that are taking place outside his little bubble but here he’s the best when he opens the window. The opener 4001 connects his 90s roots with the current 90s revival and lust for euphoria, toning down the breakbeat factor to deliver a memorable synth line. There’s a distinct lack of great basslines despite Jenkinson being a bass virtuoso of sorts. That’s what Ufabulum is then, a collection of ideas that aim to please but doesn’t offer the best that Squarepusher has up his sleeve. Unreal Square moves at a sluggish speeds and makes me think of something Skrillex would do if he went on Hudson Mohawke diet, before delving into the most embarrassing parts of The Prodigy’s career. That one and Stadium Ice are the brightest moments on here that come close to being vaguely relevant to what is happening in the world now. The latter is by far the best thing on here, lending things from the recent maximalist tendencies and combing synths, breaks, euphoric riffs, house pianos into something that is both original, memorable and true to breakbeat’s roots. It’s a shame and a rather annoying turn of circumstances that Ufabulum soon turns into such a regressive and stupid thing that you’ll find yourself wondering just what planet is Squarepusher living on. The latter part of the album, especially the trio of Drax 2, Drak Steerem and 303 Scopem Hard live up to their names and offer a brain numbing collection of industrial driven breakbeat with zero melody. They’re among the longest tracks on the record and soon you’ll feel like you’re playing a really annoying NES game that keeps glitching every 5 seconds. To start off an album but such high spirits and end with such alienation makes it feel like Squarepusher hates contemporary electronic music and lulls listeners into thinking that he evolved just to punish them with some of the harshest and tuneless tracks he’s done in years. It seems that someone took the phrase “90s revival” way too seriously.
Squarepusher’s latest LP might flirt with dance music but it hardly makes the listener move. It acts like it’s superior to everything that is happening around it and it’s far too cool to crack a smile. If you’re lucky you might get a shit-eating smirk thought as on here Squarepusher is mostly taking the piss. There are moments on Ufabulum when he flirts with being modern and reestablishing himself as a producer of electronic music that hits harder than most of the stuff out there but in the end he prefers to shut himself away and play with the toys that he bought in the 90s. Ufabulum might be valiant with its rare back to basics approach but it’s not very forward looking, imaginative or willing to learn and evolve. That’s not very IDM is it?