There’s something oddly comforting in the rattling breakbeats, drum and bass mechanics and metallic electronics stomping, clipping, and clattering from one end of Be Up a Hello to the other. The latest release from Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, is a tangled mass of nostalgic rhythms and tones, warped and mutated through a familiar collection of vintage analogue equipment. It’s brash but homey, a collection of curiously decadent circuits weaving an intricate and loving expression of where Jenkinson has been and where he intends to push his creativities next.
The freneticism of his past work is used as springboard for Be Up a Hello’s instantly compulsive melodies and beats – and while the sounds here aren’t revolutionary, they don’t necessarily have to be. Jenkinson has created a record which is fully aware that drill ‘n’ bass isn’t a genre embraced by the mainstream as much now as it is was in the late ‘90s and early 00’s. This gives him some breathing room to revisit the noise of his past while avoiding the tendency to simply mimic his earlier accomplishments. You can hear how effortlessly he updates this aesthetic on opening track, “Oberlove,” built around a series of tumbling squelches and sustained sequences of frenzied percussion.
For those unaccustomed to Squarepusher’s maximalist churn, any sense of rhythmic subtlety could possibly be lost in the jumble of overexcited tones and hyperactive beats that cascade from Jenkinson’s unbridled imagination. But for those who can wade through all the energetic chaff and get to the electronic heart of his work, the rewards are substantial. Tracks like “Vortrak” and “Detroit People Mover” deliver a cosmic electricity that alters your perception and threaten to overwhelm your senses. Tempos are mutated, and the arrangements are occupied by a bristling synthesis of the past and the future.
There are moments when nostalgia threatens to deride the balance he creates and sustains across the record, and on occasion, his focus does wander a bit, allowing the music to veer into campy electronic landscapes. But the pace of Be Up a Hello is so quick-footed that you’ll never linger in these missteps for any appreciable amount of time. He grabs his gear and pushes on, finding some new fascination further down the road. Just look at “Mekrev Bass,” a track bursting with a manic glitchiness and an overriding desire to completely subsume it audience. Others like “Nervelevers” and “Speedcrank” explore ragged streaks of electronic chaos, causing sensory overload almost immediately.
Be Up a Hello can be a lot to take in at times, a rambunctious and restless effort from a man comfortable in his ability to make the dancefloor obsolete. But there’s more here than simply speed and density – there are strange currents working their way through the songs, hints are something deeper and more relatable than its superficial excess might suggest. This record places Jenkinson at crossroads, one where the temptations of the past have achieved an equilibrium with the possibility of opportunities yet to appear, and we’re just waiting to see what happens next.