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Feed Us Weird Things: Artists On Their Favourite Squarepusher Music
Patrick Clarke , June 17th, 2021 10:10

To mark the new reissue of Squarepusher's debut album 'Feed Me Weird Things', the likes of Loraine James, John Frusciante and Danalogue pick their favourite albums and tracks by the game-changing producer


John Frusciante on Ultravisitor (Special Edition) (2004)

I first heard Squarepusher’s music in 1999. I was in a record store in England and I bought Big Loada because I looked at the cover and thought there must be good music in there. It must have been among the first things I got on Warp, because I remember looking at that oversized Warp logo and not having any previous association with the label. As I bought more of his records, I found that you never knew what they would sound like. To my ear, his music hasn't progressed in a linear way. He has done a lot of about-face turns throughout his development, where he suddenly goes from everything being programmed to having no sequencing at all; or he's playing a lot of bass, and then no bass; or playing a lot of old machines, and then all on computer; or he gets very abstract and then goes pop, and so on. A lot of artists, you just hear them getting better or worse, but he's always been so good, that I suppose the challenge for him is to keep changing. More than anything else, that is the thing I've found the most inspiring. He doesn't seem to be grasping tightly to ‘goodness’, but keeps putting himself at one disadvantage after another, and always manages to create something vital. In doing so, he has held on to that spark that is usually reserved for artists who have only just found their voice. We all strive to keep things fresh, but he is one of the few who has consistently achieved this, and been willing to take the necessary risks involved.

I was in Japan when Ultravisitor had just come out. I purchased it and took a walk with that CD and my Discman. Of course, Tokyo is a big city, but the vibe there has always felt small and enclosed to me. Walking around listening to that music, the city felt huge, free and open. Due to these types of feelings, I always think of recorded music as open or closed to some degree. For example, Aphex Twin's Richard D. James Album is closed, while Classics is open; Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality is closed, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s is open. This experience with Ultravisitor in Tokyo was one of the most remarkable ways that music has ever altered the way I perceive my surroundings. It was as if Tokyo was somehow transformed into the feeling of open countryside. I've come to realize that this is because Ultravisitor is clearly one of the most open albums ever made. It makes the sky seem bigger.

What makes the specificity of the extreme vibe of this record proper all the more remarkable is to hear it in contrast with the bonus EP that came with the special edition CD, Square Window, which is decidedly closed sounding. These tracks are so good that when I first heard them, I was shocked that they were not on the actual record. And then I realized that they are its opposite. Even Ultravisitor's most intimate, close-up moments feel huge, while on Square Window, no matter how tall and expansive the sonic pictures, the feeling remains enclosed, small, intimate, and grounded. I'm not sure why.

Stylistically, this album has great range, and no limits that I can perceive. It could be said that the record is so open ended that there is no discernible combination of genres. Styles are combined so seamlessly that they cannot be reduced to ‘this and that’ definitions. I would say it is the feeling of every genre, but maybe it's just every genre that most appeals to me. Performance-wise, the bass playing is at the high end of what man has achieved on that instrument. The music moves from melody to abstraction, and from metered rhythm to free time, so fluidly that you don't notice anything in particular has shifted until you're already deep in the change. There are all kinds of beautiful examples of electronic feedback throughout, which really adds to the feeling of spontaneity. His way of combining live drumming and programmed drumming is surreal, as one often appears to morph into the other.

The breakbeat chopping is at the highest level of originality, regardless of whether that break is from a record or him sampling himself, and it is usually hard to tell the difference. Additionally, he is able to take old breaks that are exceedingly difficult to use, due to the poor sound quality, and make them sound lush and gorgeous. It is rare for anyone to be as good at this as he is.

The arc of Ultravisitor is that it continuously goes higher and higher. There is so much life in the music that it is bursting with feeling throughout, but the peak is the last four songs. This 4th side gives me chills, and has moved me to tears on several occasions. It is some of the most emotionally direct music he's made, and it is to me one of the great climaxes of any body of music. That there is the whole Square Window to listen to afterwards and come back down to earth with is almost too good to be real. It is a very unique special set.