Be Up a Hello

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Electronic visionary Tom Jenkinson's work as Squarepusher is defined in part by his creative restlessness. Where his early work in the '90s pushed drum'n'bass to its limits, Jenkinson's drive for new sounds would see him experimenting with electro, demented funk, live jazz, and music composed with the help of artificial intelligence. Squarepusher's 15th studio album, Be Up a Hello, manages to be both a sharp about-face from recent pursuits as well as a return to some of the fundamentals of his weird genius. The process informs the direction of Be Up a Hello to a degree, with Jenkinson turning away from more cutting-edge music creation technology and going back to the gear he recorded some of his first music with. Vintage hardware synthesizers, outdated software, and even a computer from the early '80s all contribute to the nostalgic character of the album. There's also a stylistic return to earlier work, with Jenkinson's signature hyperactive drum'n'bass madness and unhinged programming bubbling up on tracks like "Speedcrank." The relatively calm "Detroit People Mover" is an ambient breather, dusty and melancholic in a way somewhere between sci-fi soundtrack and a yearning jazz ballad. The majority of the record is amped-up excitement, songs like "Terminal Slam" and the cheerily upbeat "Oberlove" wrapping Jenkinson's warped melodic tendencies in blurry breakbeats and digitally distorted synth tones. After several records of heady composition and high-concept music, Be Up a Hello is refreshingly direct. Without simply revisiting a bygone golden era, Jenkinson reconsiders some of his old ways, taking some of his more familiar ideas to new, strange places. As always.

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