Saturday 24th October
Admittedly it’s been a bit of a wait for Squarepusher’s latest album, Damogen Furies – five years since his spin-off project Shobaleader One. But for the 2,600 fans piled into Troxy – an Art Deco cinema in its heyday – hopefully it’s been worth the wait. Tom ‘Squarepusher’ Jenkinson’s career spans over 20 years, his sound encompassing drum and bass, jungle and jazz, which tonight is brought together to form a solid lineup that includes Manchester’s acid house 808 State, side project Shobaleader One, The Comet Is Coming and legendary Drum & Bass outfit Source Direct in a mini-festival that spans a mammoth seven-hour show at Troxy. That should make up for the last five years then.
Jenkinson then takes to the stage for the first of his two sets tonight, as part of four-piece Shobaleader One. They’re a particular highlight, and Jenkinson’s recent project allows him the freedom to experiment with a more analogue drum and bass mixed with minimalist jazz. The four identical masked figures are seamlessly tight – facing each other jamming as though there’s no one watching. The cavernous room can barely keep up with the stuttering succession of machine-gun staccato beats bouncing around the space –this is drum and bass pushed to its limits and it leaves you feeling exhausted.
As much a visual show as audio, Jenkinson illuminates Troxy’s mammoth stage with two LED screens with two overlapping chevron screens mirroring the Squarepusher logo. Opening with Stor Eiglass – Damogen Furies’ opening track (and a roar from the audience) – it’s a soaring return for the artist who’s made a name for himself over two decades as one of the best electronic live acts around.
His latest offering is interspersed with melodic hooks, straying into the commercial melodies of EDM even. Jenkinson puts the finger up at popular dance music, while proving that he can manipulate these sounds for his own purpose. What follows is a thundering set rapidly rattling through new album tracks and classics which are particularly well-received. The sound-sensitive LED screens pulse first with simple monochrome patterns, Jenkinson himself becoming a canvas for a separate projection and then 3D 90s screen-saver-like projections which both flow and jar with the stuttering rhythms. You get the sense you’re delving deeper into an electronic rabbit hole, a dark nightmarish future of hacksawed rhythms and disruptive electronic music. In-between tracks the screens being interspersed by computer screen-shots of Windows modular systems, giving a glimpse into Squarepusher’s electronic control room, in which he has made his own software and instruments, enabling him to record a track in just one take – a feat that seems impossible, until you see him come on stage for the encore, de-masked and fingering intricate jazz melodies on a bass guitar, achieving technical, beat-perfect wizardry.
It’s a set for Squarepusher fans, and it hits the spot. As I come back up out of the rabbit hole, I have the feeling that diehard fans will not go home disappointed.
Words by Katie Gatens
Photos courtesy of Sqaurepusher