Squarepusher Biography

Tom Jenkinson, Chelmsford, Essex, England. In the mid-90s, this UK DJ was one of a number of artists who attempted to create more integrated dance music in the midst of a splintering scene. He began playing the bass guitar and drums as a teenager, inspired by his father’s collection of dub records. From there he became interested in 70s jazz fusion artists such as Stanley Clarke, Weather Report and Chick Corea, and later, the music of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. When he was 15 Jenkinson switched on to electronic music having heard LFO’s ‘LFO’ (1990) and the music of Carl Craig. As the Duke Of Harringay he released a number of tracks on the Zoom Records spin-off Spymania, including the Conumber EP and ‘Alroy Road Tracks’. The latter set the tone for Squarepusher’s style, which blends virtuosic bass guitar, electronic sounds and complex jungle, jazz and funk drum grooves, often structured with chord sequences. A remix of DJ Food’s ‘Scratch Yer Head’ (1996) was followed by interest from such labels as Ninja Tune Records, Warp Records and R&S Records; however, as a result of Jenkinson’s friendship with Richard James (aka Aphex Twin), his first album, Feed Me Wierd Things, was released on Rephlex Records. Jenkinson signed to Warp the same year and released the Port Rhombus EP in July, followed the next year by the album Hard Normal Daddy and two further EPs, Vic Acid and Big Loada. The Burning’n Tree collection featured his pre-Warp material gathered together.

Jenkinson’s recordings as Squarepusher have generated enthusiastic, if occasionally somewhat hysterical, responses from the press. He is best when he successfully integrating his diverse influences with his musical skill. For example, ‘Papalon’ from Hard Normal Daddy presents various understated jazz and jungle rhythms, with a number of subtle textures created from bubbling bass guitar and bass clarinet, as well as floating, oscillating chords, while the remix of DJ Food’s ‘Scratch Yer Head’, after an onslaught of coarse drums, settles into a relaxed chord sequence that frames Jenkinson’s tasteful melodic basslines. However, there is sometimes a tendency to become boring when his drum programming becomes over-intricate and fidgety, and he develops an Aphex Twin-style nastiness-for-the-sake-of-it attitude. There is also a feeling, notable in particular on Hard Normal Daddy, that he has created a number of interesting pastiches -‘Cooper’s World’ (70s television cop theme), ‘Papalon’ (Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew), ‘E8 Boogie’ (an indulgent jazz rock trio), ‘Fat Controller’ (big beat) - mingled with mediocre electronic and jungle tunes, rather than producing a coherent whole.

Jenkinson’s prolific output also means that quality control sometimes goes awry, with the impact of 1998’s dark fusion classic Music Is Rotted One Note lessened by the subsequent clutch of experimental mini-albums including the warped electronica of Budakhan Mindphone and Selection Sixteen.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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