Squarepusher is just as sonically challenging here but perhaps more accessible than ever on Just A Souvenir, his twelfth album proper. It’s poignant though to preface this review by saying that if you’re relatively new to the Squarepusher universe, then give Just A Souvenir time to seep in. After all, this is a concept album, and such cerebral offerings require a good couple of listening sessions to understand.
The concept however is kind of vague. The disc’ 14 tracks evolved from what Squarepusher mastermind Tom Jenkinson calls â€œa daydream about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra gigâ€. I’m not going to go into Jenkinson’ whole back story – you should read that here – but suffice to say his hallucination included a giant neon coat hanger, an Eskimo, metaphysical musicians, a flying snare drum and a game of Monopoly. Once you understand the premise of Just A Souvenir, the whole album starts to make some sense.
Take “Coathanger’ for instance. Its neon namesake and vocoder vocals almost seem like a parody of Daft Punk. Remember, we are at an â€œultra-gigâ€ here. It also accounts for what I like to call the Death Metal Trilogy – “Planet Gear’, “Tensor In Green’ and “The Glass Road’ sound like a kid in his bedroom trying to cover early Metallica. It’s all there: hair metal guitar, blitzkrieg drums and bass lines that scythe through the madness, just with the addition of electronic and synthesiser embellishments. It just wouldn’ be Squarepusher without those.
Jenkinson’ renowned for his virtuosic bass playing, so it’s no surprise he flexes his jazz muscle quite often on Just A Souvenir alongside an instrument not usually associated with Squarepusher: a nylon-string acoustic guitar. “Yes Sequitor’ and “Open Society’ are beautiful guitar-driven vignettes floating in the ether. “Duotone Moonbeam’ leans the heaviest on jazz with its scatty bass line, scattershot drums and staccato guitar. For a man associated mainly with experimental electronica, he weaves a deft jazz hand.
Just A Souvenir is a varied and at times incongruous release. Some songs, particularly “A Real Woman’ and the block rocker “Delta-V’, border on the ridiculous. But it’s by far the most organic Squarepusher album released, and its mix of jazz fusion, heavy metal, drum’n’bass and even the occasional mid-“90s happy hardcore excursion congeal to form a record that’s both oddly engaging and plain incomprehensible.