Squarepusher :: Damogen Furies (Warp)

In its own twisted way, Damogen Furies provides a dialogue between sub-genres where Squarepusher, as one of the interlocutors, swallows whole the other and vomits a severely changed amalgamation between the current ‘popular’ techniques used in the sub-genres and his own personality.

Squarepusher :: Damogen Furies (Warp)

Some guy :: “Okay, Tom, how about if for your next album we push it to the limits and instead of 4 robots playing music at inhuman speeds we go for the full orchestra, 25 robots playing stuff at such high speeds that no-one will mind if what they are listening to is complete shit?”

Tom Jenkinson :: “Nah”

Squarepusher’s previous effort, Music For Robots relied on a gimmick, albeit a very contemporary one, how about we just let robots do their thing? Who needs humans in the musical equation anyways? Jenkinson knew how to exploit this, trained as he is in jazz and analog electronica. The most jarring thing about MFR was that the gimmick did not work, unless you count witless Dragonforce-esque riffs as ‘working.’ It made Squarepusher sound like neophyte, always on the lookout for the new ‘thing’ not realizing that his efforts are better suited for the kind of IDM he and Aphex Twin pioneered back in the 90’s. The requisite wit, the ‘red hot cars,’ the intentionally obtuse and weirdo music videos. Music For Robots does not make some kind of theoretical point about the ability of robots to outperform humans, it is not a thesis project, it does not echo concerns about the singularity and the upcoming machine uprising. It is a gimmick in the most plain sense, it is used a device to draw attention. In a career epitomized by not giving in to expectations, Music For Robots was a turn anyone with a William Gibson novel in his hand and a Dio poster in his room would see coming from a mile away.

Some guy puts on Squarepusher’s newest record, Damogen Furies. The recurring descending scale on opening track “Stor Eiglass” could be taken as a gimmick as well. “Doesn’t that sound like The Cure’s Just Like Heaven” Some guy asks, ‘that’s the most gimmicky thing I’ve heard. You’ve done music with robots, man, why are you calling attention to yourself with a Robert Smith remix? It doesn’t even have vocals, man.’ Surely, by now, the idiocy of Some guy must be on display here. The possibilities of Squarepusher’s sound are embedded with something that is very rare—indeed, sometimes impossible to locate—quality in artists. Hell, most people lack it: personality. The thing about Squarepusher is that, much like label mate Aphex Twin, he does not really care, but this does not become a kind of pointless nihilist ‘punk’-electronica. Instead, what arises is the implicit provocation, the gesture of discontent within the deceptive surface of a simple idea. At this point we must start asking ourselves if after 21 years of career we haven’t truly ‘gotten’ an artist or if the discourse surrounding that artist, supposedly ‘intelligent’ fans, has been mediocre at best.

Interviewer :: “How do you play all those instruments at the same time?”

Squarepusher :: “Don’t you understand anything? Total prick.”

Taking the album as a statement is tempting, but even If I wanted to stretch the dialogue between Some guy, Squarepusher and the average IDM fan, I would not be doing total justice to Damogen Furies compelling intensity and engagement with other currents of contemporary electronic music. In its own twisted way, Damogen Furies provides a dialogue between sub-genres where Squarepusher, as one of the interlocutors, swallows whole the other and vomits a severely changed amalgamation between the current ‘popular’ techniques used in the sub-genres and his own personality. What was completely missing in Music For Robots is highlighted in Damogen Furies. It is not that personality and originality are alien to each other, rather, the productive synthesis between the two in Squarepusher’s case, comes from the supremacy of form (his personality) over content. It is personality that ultimately rules Damogen Furies and makes it a record as enticing as Ufabulum. The picture it paints is colorful, yet aggressive; playful, yet as serious as your life. Damogen Furies proves that Tom Jenkinson is the only cyborg we need.

Damogen Furies is available on Warp.

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