Tom Jenkinson, a.k.a. Squarepusher, is a musical genius. He can play the bass like no other, has a mastery of the drums, and has a grasp on computer sequencing that few possess. His skills and knowledge are so intense that he approaches madness. With Ultravisitor, Jenkinson has created something to be appreciated; simultaneously calculated to a science and purely spontaneous, Ultravisitor straddles the line between calm rationality and utter insanity.
Without pigeonholing his music too much, fans of intelligent dance music and other Warp releases will appreciate what Jenkinson has put together on Ultravisitor. But a lot of the music here is more specifically experimental drum ‘n’ bass. Many tracks combine heavy drum ‘n’ bass or jungle breaks with Jenkinson’s frantic live bass, which draws heavily on his jazz background and fuses together pre-programmed electronica and free-flowing live jazz. On most tracks, the drum brakes and jazzy bass lines get layered between computer-sequenced loops and samples and even crowd noises, producing an intense catharsis and a schizophrenic feel.
It starts out with a heavy but straightforward drum ‘n’ bass track before moving to an intense free-form bass solo and then to a calm, laid-back track. Squarepusher’s more experimental side reveals itself as the record progresses, and the tracks get more intense and bizarre. The drums switch back and forth between programmed and live; the sound morphs from being completely abrasive, cold and calculated to being full of instruments; and the music builds into crescendos and then falls into nothing. It’s easy to get lost in the music; all you can do is guess at what he’s going to do next.
Squarepusher’s sound and methodology hasn’t changed too much, but Ultravisitor seems to flow better than Jenkinson’s past work. He’s matured without compromising quality, and this record is more listenable and tangible, despite coming in at about 80 minutes. It’s possible to enjoy single tracks from this record, but it works better as a whole. And it takes some serious motivation and free time to find 80 minutes to enjoy it like it should be enjoyed. Still, on Ultravisitor, Squarepusher has used his musical genius and madman mind state to create a record that is utterly intense, terrifying and beautiful.