‘Go Plastic’ Goes Spastic, Techno Man’s Second AlbumBy Erik Blankinship
Red Hot Car,” the first single off of Squarepusher’s new album, Go Plastic, is a fantastic techno two-step. The debatably offensive lyrics are both surprising (“Is that what the Square Pusher guy really sounds like? He can sing?”) and wicked (“He wants to do what in a red hot car?”). This newest album is available as a download on Warp record’s site <http://www.warprecords.com>, and well worth a listen for a fresh new sound of techno.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album sounds a bit redundant compared to the red hot single. For the most part, Squarepusher is serving up the same sounds he put into his last efforts but with a more frantic pace -- hitherto thought impossible. The signature epileptic seizure beats are definitely here, but the fusion of jazz, which set previous Squarepusher albums like “Feed Me Weird Things” apart, is missing from Go Plastic.
Squarepusher presents a harsher sound with this album, a relentless percussive assault which constantly diverts attention. The track “Go Spastic” has dramatic shifts in beat and new tonalities every few seconds. This provides the benefit of finding something entirely new in every relisten, but the disadvantage of being extremely difficult to absorb pleasurably. The album is successful at creating a hostile soundscape which leaves the listener bewildered, but at the cost of audience endurance. Even as a big Squarepusher fan, I turned this track off many times when I could no longer stand it.
At its worst, the album grows irritating, a quality of electronic music usually attributed to endless repetition and not the innovation attributed to earlier ‘pusher efforts. But tracks like “My Fucking Sound” are a scatological cacophony. While kind of spooky at times, and providing an aural signature, it is a patterning of sounds that suffers from just being too much. It’s a shame since Squarepusher is usually good at keeping his musical spaz attack just in check. This time it sounds a little too indulgent.
Not all is bewildering, since other tracks, like “The Exploding Psychology,” are pretty sweet and mellow, with a cadence sounding like it was sampled from a Commodore 64 with its limited but authentic sound chip. Squarepusher holds it together with a classic organ melody reminiscent of previous EP effort “Our Underwater Torch.”
Although I haven’t a clue how Squarepusher goes about making his music, the electronic sound on some of these tracks suggest it really is electronic: that someone is lifting and laying wires over a breadboard while scratching records with their other hand. It provides a nice analog sound that offers a tonal complement to the percussive underpinnings of many songs. The album finale “Plaistow Flex Out” uses this to great effect, leaving a mellow beat in your ear with a warped melody skirting about.
At the end of the month, on August 25, Squarepusher and techno star Plaid are coming to Boston for a live performance at The Paradise. It will undoubtedly be a gig that will serve up some very good grooves, even if you can’t get in one long enough to dance to it.