Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Music For Robots (EP Review)

I've been waiting to put this one out for a long time ever since the promo video dropped, after some issues with actually getting my hands on it, here we are. Squarepusher's new project centers around a team of Japanese robots dubbed the Z-Machines: MACH, the 78 fingered, 12 picked Robot guitarist tested up to 1000 BPM, ASHURA, 22 armed drummer that reminds me a ton of Chris Cunningham's Monkey Drummer and COSMO on Keyborads.

Click for big (1000x1000)

So what exactly do you get when you hand that power over to someone like Tom Jenkinson? Some really interesting results actually, to quote the man himself:
"In this project the main question I’ve tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?"
And with that, the tracks. It starts particularly mild with some jazzy tinkering that wouldn't sound too out of place on Just A Souvenir or other previous 'Pusher joints. It fits the aim set out in his quote sure, but a common complaint is that there's no reason he couldn't have just done this the conventional way. Which while I can see, won't be valid for much longer.

Squarepusher X Z-Machines - Remote Amber |HTML5|

The second track is the one used in the promo and the one I fell in love with almost instantly, like I did with Plug Me In. Honestly it sums up the entire project nicely: its music with feeling made by robots that also pushes the limits of the technology à la Aphex Twin's Drukqs. Gorgeous in parts, frantic in others, a definite highlight.

Squarepusher X Z-Machines - Sad Robot Goes Funny |HTML5|

Straight after we're back into more experimental territory with another jazzy number. Again it's not particularly complex but as it goes on you can hear SP begin to push things a little more. It's great to hear the evolution in it that isn't simply shredding away at the guitar or simulating some snare rushes on the drums, but its probably not for everyone.

Squarepusher X Z-Machines - World Three |HTML5|

That soon takes a turn though, as much as I loathed the comments on the youtube promo being all "OMG DRAGONFORCE" I fully expected 'Pusher to go mental with that guitar, albeit in his own way. And I wasn't dissapointed. Dissolver reminds me a ton of tunes like The Glass Road and Rotate Electrolyte; this is Squarepusher doing what he does best. The breaks are there, and the tricks he pulls with the guitar are stunning, fast forward to 4:30 for a crash course.

Squarepusher X Z-Machines - Dissolver |HTML5|

I was again pleasantly surprised at the final track. After all this is ends with a fairly sedate tune that again reminds me of the awesome opener to Shobaleader One, Plug Me In. I've always said 'Pusher has a penchant for making more downtempo stuff, and this is just another string to that bow, a fine and fitting end to the EP.

Squarepusher X Z-Machines - You Endless |HTML5|

Has the man achieved his mission statement? from where I'm sitting its a yes, but already I've seen the debate run rampant about whether its 'real' music or not and honestly I don't even care. Over the last 20 years Squarepusher has made downright gorgeous songs like Tommib, out of this world abrasive ones like Steinbolt, he's even made a full on Jazz record. Style is never consistent with Squarepusher, but he manages to keep the same standard of quality throughout and that is praise enough.

Get a copy of Music For Robots from:

-Claude Van Foxbat