In the mid-90s, when Englishman Tom Jenkinson first started releasing music under the name Squarepusher, it was difficult to know what to think of him: with his absurdly busy drum programs and hyperkinetic, Jaco Pastorius-inspired electric bass, he seemed to be making drum ‘n’ bass for Weather Report’s old fans. But over the years, he’s proved himself a prankster as intelligent as Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin–who released the first Squarepusher full-length, 1996’s Feed Me Weird Things, on his own Rephlex label. On several subsequent albums and countless EPs, Jenkinson has consistently nudged progressive electronica over the line into comedy; his fastidious programming all but demands to be taken seriously, even as it parodies itself. The latest Squarepusher album, Go Plastic (Warp), suggests that Jenkinson’s “aesthetic”–or, more accurately, his tendency to subvert and sabotage every genre he touches–may be rooted in a short attention span. The catchy first single, “My Red Hot Car,” takes a convincing stab at two-step, the reigning dance style in the UK, but Jenkinson derails its almost soulful vibe and hooky organ riff in less than a minute. Throughout the disc he leads listeners to expect a certain beat and then withholds it, instead offering ridiculous electronic squiggles, white noise, or disorienting rhythmic displacements–in fact, curiosity about what he’ll do next is sometimes all that keeps me from chucking the CD player out the window. Sharing headliner status at this concert are Squarepusher labelmates Plaid, the duo of Andy Turner and Ed Hanley–formerly members of the trio Black Dog, they’re both longtime proponents of IDM, or “intelligent dance music.” Throughout their careers Turner and Hanley have merged brutal techno beats with synth melodies that alternate between dreamy and twitchy; Plaid’s third album for Warp, Double Figure, doesn’t pull any punches, but in the rapidly evolving world of electronic dance music, it already sounds stale. Friday, August 17, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Richard Sweeney.