Music reviews: Squarepusher, Great Lake Swimmers, Mumford & Sons
As part of Warp Records’ mainstays alongside Aphex Twin and Autechre, producer and composer Tom “Squarepusher” Jenkinson has always been one of electronic dance music’s true pioneers.
Over more than 15 albums and countless stunning audiovisual live shows, Squarepusher has consistently pushed the boundaries of glitchy bleeps and beats to breaking point. In his own words: “I aim to explore as forcefully as possible the hallucinatory, the nightmarish and the brutally visceral capacities of electronic music.”
If there was a dictionary entry for “experimental jazz-fused drum and bass”, there would just be a picture of the Essex-born electronic music innovator.
Following on from last year’s Music for Robots EP, which was written by Jenkinson but performed by a trio of droids, Damogen Furies could be his poppiest to date. It’s not that his intense fragmented compositions have lost any of their insane trippiness – the synth melodies are just catchier and the tunes are, well, more tuneful, in an unrelenting jittery mind-pounding kind of way. Furious four-sided fun.
Great Lake Swimmers
A Forest of Arms
Other than summertime snow and international politeness, if there's one thing Canadians do well, it's folk rock. Built around the melodic bittersweet ditties of Ontario-born singer-songwriter Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers are one of Canada's more adventurous collection of fockers.
A Forest of Arms, their sixth album in 12 years, was recorded over several months in several rural locations, and it certainly harnesses the beauty of the natural world. Dekker says driving lead single Zero in the City "lands somewhere in the place where those psychic and physical landscapes overlap". It's a recurring theme for the frontman, as he explores the personal ties that bind us together and the environmental issues that are close to his heart. The Great Bear, a heartfelt piano ballad, is inspired by a conservation trip Dekker took to the rainforest of British Columbia, to pristine wilderness threatened by proposed oil pipeline construction.
With some of the vocals recorded in an underground cavern, the haunting acoustics even feature the sound of bats circling above, which only adds to nature's harmony.
Mumford & Sons
From TV commercials to Topshop to (probably) Tehran; when your stadium-filling folk-rock album is played to death, you will one day suffer a backlash. After all, Babel, the foursome's second faux-folk album, was the fastest-selling album in the US and Britain in 2012.
Dressed like upper-class farmhands, banjo-plucking rich kids Mumford & Sons have certainly had their fair share of stick recently. After an "indefinite hiatus" that turned out to be brief, Marcus Mumford and his pals are back, minus the posh peasant clobber and euphoric sea shanty hoedowns.
This time they come strapped with guitars and claims of a "completely natural" evolution. After their bluegrass dalliance, can this rock star rebranding be anything close to genuine? Sure, the songs rock out like the best Coldplay B-sides - if you can ignore the whirring in the background. (That's just Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and so on spinning like jet engines in their graves.)
I'm looking forward to Marcus and his homies' hip-hop opus set in the badlands of the West End. Keeping it real.