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Squarepusher

For a while there, it seemed like Britain's Squarepusher, a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson, would never show his face around these parts. One full-scale U.S. tour was aborted shortly after its launch, and another was scrapped entirely, all for unspecified reasons. It only added to Jenkinson's long-standing reputation as a mad IDM/drill 'n' bass scientist on a par with Richard D. James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin.

"The retiring home-studio mutant" is how Jenkinson once derisively characterized his media portrayal to Jockey Slut magazine (one of the exceptionally rare interviews he's given in recent years), protesting that his "only link verbally with most of the world is through the press, who like to paint you as a weirdo just because your music is a bit Ôoff it.'"

Over the past year, though, Jenkinson has been vigorously debunking the hermit myth with a ton of dates in the States. His fantastic new (and now unironically titled) disc Ultravisitor -- much like everything else he's released in the past 10 years -- is certainly complicated, unpredictable, and pretty much schizophrenic, but there's an undeniable beauty in the percussive melodies and a strange sense of purpose to their exhilarative constructions. It's not the abstract-just-for-the-sake-of-being-abstract thing that you get from the hordes of imitators extracting the most obvious and regurgitatable elements of the Squarepusher style -- skittery, fractured breakbeats and minimal synth bleats -- while unable to tap into the intangible, indubitable soul that resides inside Jenkinson's sonic pretzels.

Neither is a Squarepusher gig a one-man-and-his-Power Mac affair: Jenkinson's got a full complement of gear at his disposal, from racks of samplers and processors to the fretless bass that reflects his jazz-fusion roots. A stellar performance is practically a given; thank God he's finally got the "showing up" part down, too.


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