Tom Jenkinson (aka: SQUAREPUSHER) is the type of rare artist that I can’t imagine doing anything else except for working at his craft. What I mean by that isn’t that I couldn’t see him having any other occupation because he is destined to give birth to some of the best electronic music ever and that it is his calling… blah, blah, blah, etc, etc. What I mean is that I can’t imagine him doing ANYTHING else, as in going to the grocery store or playing boardgames at a dinner party with lifelong chums in his living room. His sonic creations are so elaborate, complex, and multi-dimensional that they often splinter into so many directions at once that the listener’s mind has no other option but to do the same. Separate corridors and paths open and close; platforms lift, raise and disintegrate. No one else is better at actually providing depth, layering, and a visual element to their music; seemingly creating something tangible and solid from simple audio. No one is better at making music that has the potential to physically give me an anxiety attack either, which is why my girlfriend hates it so much when I want to play it. Over the last decade and a half, the Englishman has twisted and mutated sound into so many varying directions that his only limitation appears to be his own imagination. His proficiency is ridiculous and his delivery suggests an obsession with perfection. This is why I have difficulty imagining him in any other element than in one of methodical experimentation, constant restructuring, and focus. I imagine that even when he’s making a sandwich, his mind is off trying to work out some ridiculous algorithm and, after he puts the bread away and the cheese back in the crisper, he immediately returns to his dungeon, eating with one hand and tweaking knobs with the other. He’s always appeared to me as some sort of crazy reclusive electro-alchemist, hibernating simultaneously in a futuristic lab and in a Medieval basement. Both hermitic and hermetic, residing in a hybrid yurt/hovercraft. As evidenced by the promotional image/album cover (above), Jenkinson’s latest project, SHOBALEADER ONE, is doing very little to dispel such outlandish suppositions of this character as a futuristic cyber-jazz druid.
Those truly familiar with Jenkinson‘s work know that he is not only an incredibly skilled producer, but a confoundingly proficient bassist as well. In fact, last year saw the release of the SQUAREPUSHER‘s Solo Electric Bass 1, an album of 12 live tracks, recorded at the 2007 Jazz à la Villette festival in Paris, France. The entire performance of impressive live orchestrations was presented with nothing more than an electric bass and a small amp on the stage. A SQUAREPUSHER release has generally suggested that Jenkinson will be operating as a one man studio, handling all of the instrumentation and production by himself. This hasn’t changed, however, it’s important to take note that the upcoming SHOBALEADER ONE release isn’t exactly a “SQUAREPUSHER” album, per se. Instead, the project makes sure to point out that it is only “presented” by SQUAREPUSHER. Jenkinson is back to throwing down his typical bass funk, but this time it seems that he isn’t coming at it alone and that SHOBALEADER ONE is actually a whole different monster featuring a whole new set of anonymous collaborators.
When the first SHOBALEADER ONE single, “Cryptic Moon“, was released last month, it caused quite a bit of confusion. The first question raised was about the record label that released it. For years, the names WARP records and SQUAREPUSHER have been so closely linked that it’s been difficult to name one without thinking of the other. This single, on the other hand, was released by French electronic label and home to Mr. Oizo, ED BANGER Records. The second question dealt with why the release was labeled as being “presented” by SQUAREPUSHER at all. A quick listen to the single makes it immediately clear that Jenkinson‘s finger prints are all over it and it left many assuming that SHOBALEADER ONE was simply a new moniker being used by the electronic genius.
[We’ve included both the “Cryptic Motion” single and the Mr. Oizo remix of the song that it was backed with here for those who haven’t heard them]
A new quote from SQUAREPUSHER regarding the project has now appeared to help to bring some clarity to the story behind SHOBALEADER ONE. Back when his last official studio release, Just A Souvenir came out two years ago, Jenkinson offered the following super-elaborate explanation for its inception:
“This album started as a daydream about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra-gig.
At first, a giant fluorescent image of a coat hanger appeared at the back of the stage. A couple of seconds later a full size replica of the Camden Falcon backroom materialised around the glowing coat hanger. Upon the stage was a group composed of five musicians. They seemed to be of differing ages, some young, some old. I noticed that the drummer was an Eskimo. They played instruments either of their own design or conventional ones that were modified such that they could be used to generate a range of sounds not typically associated with a rock band. For instance, one of the musicians appeared to be using a device attached to the body of his classical guitar that allowed him to accelerate or decelerate time in his immediate vicinity. At a certain point he seemed to quickly reverse back to a couple of months ago. My suspicions were corroborated by his hair and beard temporarily looking rather shorter. Sonically, this had the effect of extruding certain melodic phrases into shimmering monoliths and slow emotion wave fronts. Other sounds being generated near to him on stage also got partially sucked into the time sponge and were returned at high speed as imploded sonic pin cushions.
The coat hanger started glowing emerald green. At the same time, a river emerged on the stage and appeared to be running under the drum kit. I was concerned for the safety of the musicians being as it was that they were powering their other-worldly equipment with electricity. Just as I began to venture a comment, the members of the band that weren’t kayaking were enveloped in a localised electrical storm. As the electricity arced around various nodal points such as the drummer’s left hand, the guitarist’s teeth and a Venus fly trap that was sitting just behind the bass amp, I noticed to my relief that they weren’t being incinerated by this high voltage extravaganza.”
Now it appears that this vision which sparked the previous release is actually playing a large role in the creation of the new one. SQUAREPUSHER is now providing the following explanation behind the SHOBALEADER ONE project:
“Last summer a bunch of kids got in contact with me. They were talking about forming an ensemble, which I thought was a ridiculous idea, but I was impressed by their perseverance, so we met up. The idea was that they wanted the ‘fantasy group’ I had written about in connection with Just A Souvenir to become a real entity that would record and tour…Part of the idea is that this music is a completely clean break with whatever they’ve done in the past, so I’m not going to mention any names. I can tell you that they are pretty frightening players.“
That, along with the following video, is our first real taste of what we can expect when the 9-song SHOBALEADER ONE mini-album, d’Demonstrator is finally released on October 18 by Warp Records. Sure… it’s a “taste” but, in typical SQUAREPUSHER fashion, it seems to raising even more questions about what’s to come than it answers. Whatever it is, we’re interested.
SHOBALEADER ONE pre-orders are currently available through HERE.
Here is the complete TRACKLIST
1. Plug Me In
2. Smash Unreason
3. Into the Blue
4. Frisco Wave
6. Abstract Love
7. Endless Night
8. Cryptic Motion
9. Maximum Planck