Album Review: Squarepusher – Numbers Lucent [EP]

Last time we heard from Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, he had a hallucinatory “dream” of Eskimo drummers, a time-warping, bearded classical guitarist, a Venus fly-trap, a gigantic glowing coat hanger, and some kayaks. How awesome does that “daydream” sound? Well, the result was the very polarizing 2008 record, Just A Souvenir. Instead of the jazz influenced electronica that brought him so much acclaim, it had been replaced with more…”traditional” music. His fans were split: some applauded his take on the punk and rock genres and others were, let’s just say, not as enthused.

The mystery continued on last November, when Jenkinson announced his follow up EP. Considering the recent turn of events with Just A Souvenir, people were just a bit curious as to how the even newer tunes would sound. Jenkinson gave fair warning, however, stating that Numbers Lucent was supposed to “highlight and contrast the vibrant fantasy band album that is Just a Souvenir, with six self styled explorations of dance floor psychedelia.” So, how’d it turn out?

Numbers Lucent kicks off with “Zounds Perspex”, which is the equivalent to elevator jazz on acid, thanks to its minimal drumming effects, distorted keys, and raucous finale that ends with an ear-splitting synthesizer medley. This track has an almost rave-like atmosphere to it, making it a good harbinger for the EP. Up next, “Paradise Garage” is a bouncy track fueled by a funk-filled bass line. For those that don’t know, Jenkinson is considered to be one of the best bassists in music today and this is only further evidence.

Unfortunately, “Helical Torch” rings next. While not a horrible song, the third track of the bunch is just not that interesting or sonically attractive, sticking out like a sore thumb…though not for too long. Shortly following, heavy melodies and drum samples come into play with “Star Time 1”. A prequel to Just A Souvenir‘s “Star Time 2” (go figure), “Star Time 1” is the first “typical” Squarepusher track and manages to be upbeat, even with a dirty, acid tinged bassline.

The last two tracks take some interesting yet different turns. “Arterial Fantasy” starts off with heavily modulated Amen Breaks and soon it launches back into that rave-like tension that “Zounds Perplex” carried only to a higher degree. There’s a promising introduction to “Illegal Dustbin” with heavy percussion samples that float over the signature jazzy baselines. Immediately, the closing track shifts into an almost unlistenable version of breakcore that somehow transitions into enthralling chaos. It’s hard to explain, but picture a rave, now imagine a massive riot breaking out. Think about it, you just can’t look away…can you?

Overall, Numbers Lucent manages to be much more in line with Tom Squarepusher’s past works than the more recent, Just A Souvenir. Back is the acid-laced bass and out is the punk-rock style that confused so many last Fall. To summarize, this album would be just as comfortable on the dance floor as it would be listening to it at home.


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