Squarepusher / Shobaleader One

Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator

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A concept album that sticks straitjacket tight to its concept throughout, Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator is a record of throwback electronic rock, with an R&B edge and synthesized vocals, performed by a hooded band -- and if Daft Punk springs to mind, it should. After a record of solo bass (titled Solo Electric Bass, Vol. 1), Squarepusher's Tom Jenkinson soon unveiled his next project: the masked foursome named Shobaleader One. (Jenkinson's claims that the group consists of real people is certainly possible, but the omnipresent masks make one wonder if the producer is playing puppetmaster here.) A combination of stark electro and swinging funk, most tracks featuring vocals, the album will have listeners thinking of Daft Punk one minute and stark '80s television themes the next (read Knight Rider). As usual, Jenkinson gets in a little action with his bass (or synth-bass), especially on "Cryptic Motion," virtually the only track here that lets a little light in (it was released on Ed Banger a month before it appeared here). He has a way with vocals too, best heard on the robot-lover opener "Plug Me In." Elsewhere, the material is mostly midtempo and methodical, with the masks staying on throughout (literally and figuratively). It's an excellent way for Jenkinson to branch out and try something different -- his playing and programming is definitely up to his high standard -- but aside from the sweet retro vibes, it's hardly a classic.

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