I'd be lying if I said I'd been keeping up to date with Warp's new releases after trawling their back catalogue for classics, but as I went to pick up more stuff from bleep.com I noticed 'Pushers new album. I knew it was coming, I'd heard Cryptic Motion, so I decided to check it out. And I was stunned.
Squarepusher is back, with a new "band" and this time bringing what I can only describe as his own twisted vision of Electro House to the table, or as Warp describes it: "The perplexingly titled 'Shobaleader One' is a dizzy whirl of proggy, vocodered soul; double-jointed electro-funk; Daft Punk-esque disco; electrifying finger-taps and various other mutations of speed-metal and fluorescent pop music". And with that in mind, my first album review:
It begins with Plug Me in, opening with some simple guitar chords we've seen before on Ultravisitor and Just A Souvenir. And then the beat drops, and the vocals too which carefully dance the line between vocoded and auto tuned, and all of a sudden it's a different beast entirely from anything we've heard before. Almost perfect opener IMO, just a bit too laid back in comparison to the rest of the album. 9/10
Squarepusher - Plug Me In
Here is where the Electro dabbling starts, set to some funky guitar riffs and even more almost incomprehensible vocoded verses. And while it's not going to set the floors on fire like We Are From Venice, it's damn fine electro, just with added guitars. think Pourriture X or Planisphere Part 4, only less crunchy. Overall, a very decent song, but it can get tedious after a while if you're looping it as I am. 8/10
Squarepusher - Laser Rock
I honestly have no idea how to describe this track. There's nothing to compare it to but I'll do my best :). One of the more laid back tracks on the album, Into The Blue keeps it fairly simple and focuses on the lyrics, sounds like some crazy futuristic pop from the 80's. I can hate or love this track depending on when it comes up, so I'm going with my gut feeling at the moment.6/10
Squarepusher - Into The Blue
Frisco Wave is a very strange track indeed, it sounds like a more modern track from Aphex Twin's unreleased Melodies From Mars; and that's not a bad thing at all. No vocals on this one, and as the first instrumental (minus a few random vocalisations) track of the album it's not too shabby, something about it just hits all the right places. Perhaps it's that melody, rising and falling in waves (no pun intended), which is too damn catchy for it's own good! 9/10
Squarepusher - Frisco Wave
Megazine (the track used in the D'demonstrator trailer) is what happens when 'Pusher decides he wants to do some Metal fused with his new Electro style. and he knows how to make it last, introducing the now expected vocoders over the top and some droney synths in the background. And just when you're getting tired of it, there's a kick ass guitar solo in the last quarter that injects the track with some much needed freshness at the right moment, and because of that Megazine gets an 8/10.
Squarepusher - Megazine
By far my favourite track on the album, Abstract Lover is a slow moving electro number, the satisfying beats lead into the synth-esque guitar riffing which is simply amazing. the way it merges and flows with the beats is just fantastic and the vocals only add to the winning combination. Already in my list of favourite songs ever and one of the best electro tunes I've heard in a long while, I only wish it was longer than three minutes. 10/10
Squarepusher - Abstract Lover
This one's a bit of a mash. It's like Jazz mashed with an 80's power ballad and some hair metal. Yeah. The track gets much better after about a minute or so if you haven't given up on it by that time, only just my least favourite but still good, if only for the later parts. 5/10
Squarepusher - Endless Night
I shouldn't really need to explain this one, but I will anyway. Released earlier as a single, it's pretty much the gateway to the album. In short: if you like Cryptic Motion, you will like D'demonstrator. One of the best tracks here as it pretty much encompasses everything the album is about. only compliant: could be a bit shorter, but that's me being picky 10/10
Squarepusher - Cryptic Motion [click to download]
and the finale, which like Megazine is straight up screechy guitars in your face. This time with added kicks, even more guitars over the top and some soft synths for good measure. And while that kickdrum does come across as a bit obnoxious at first, it soon slides into it's place in the mix. It sets out to be as outrageously filthy as it can, and it succeeds.8/10
Squarepusher - Maximum Planck
And that rounds up my first review, I would've included the Japanese bonus track, but it was hard to find a 320 of it, regardless it's similar to Planck and Megazine so if you like them, check it out, it's brilliantly titled "On Fire Again"
Now for Shobaleader One, the 'band' itself, I love the look and the anonyminity of them, it really adds to the aesthetic of the album as a whole. Odds are we'll never find out who they are (yet), they all have adopted psuedonyms and according to 'Pusher they come from a metal background but also are "mad into" R'n B. you can certainly feel that style on the record, as they set out to make what the Square man himself calls "Space Pop".
At the moment he says he's writing more material for them to perform as it's an "ongoing experiment", and is in touch with Andre 3000 from Outkast after he stated he'd like to collab with him. Make of that what you will, I'm off :).
What the hell is a Shobaleader?,
-Claude Van Foxbat