Tom Jenkinson kicks off the week in proper drum 'n' bass style
A Sunday night gig is often a strange affair. The weekend is coming to a close, it’s a night to wind down and prepare for the dread of Monday. But when Squarepusher arrives at Stiff Kitten with a rare live show such perceptions fall by the wayside.
Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher has had an interesting career. He started off his sound experimenting over 15 years ago, cobbling together synthesizers, drum machines and an assortment of dilapidated machinery to create a new take on drum and bass. Despite his reputation as a sonic pioneer his latest LP, Just a Souvenir, has met mixed reviews.
Belfast is the final destination on Squarepusher’s European tour. But there is some homegrown talent before the main event in the form of the youthful Space Dimension Controller.
The Belfast-based electronic artist, 19 years of age, gets underway as a mob begins to gather. Warm up acts can easily chill a crowd, but Space Dimension Controller does his job right. Waves of computer sound wash over with the Controller shifting styles from electronica and drum focused techno before moving into West Coast electro mode.
Vocoder samples drop in ‘Astro Bandits’ before Space Dimension Controller takes up the mic for a distorted hip hop electro outing. After such a spread of styles the crowd is left with a hunger for more.
Armed with a mean looking bass guitar, the jester-like Jenkinson stands in front of two laptops and an assortment of equipment whilst he leers at the crowd. Obviously no believer in introductions, a torrent of shattered snares fill the Stiff Kitten and a new energy grips the room as ‘Modern Bass Guitar’ drops.
As the bpm rises Jenkinson doles out distorted lung smacking bursts of bass, twisting the thick strings into squalid acid shards. The 'Pusher works his vintage drum and bass style, whipping the crowd into a 90s warehouse rave frenzy.
Unbeknownst, a second figure has taken the stage - Alex Thomas, a drummer who has worked with Jenkinson on some of his more recent material. Cue some improv free rock. The two work off one another, bringing a synergy of experimentation to the gig.
The poppy, fun filled ‘A Real Woman’ breaks the jamming session. The vocoded cabaret injecting a new sense of circus into the set, with catchy silliness pouring from the speakers.
Clearly Jenkinson is a talented musician, moving from machinery to instrument effortlessly. This skill seems lost in technicality when it comes to his recorded material, but live his ability shines through.
Shades of snare drum captures the audience's attention once again before Jenkinson drops the 1997 glitch and bass monster ‘Come on my Selector’. A new sinisterly shaped guitar is donned as a cacophony of beats and bass pummel the walls of Stiff Kitten whilst a tongue makes an appearance from behind Jenkinson’s beard.
The screen behind lights up in a stream of white as Squarepusher’s guitar clasped silhouette introduces the epic synthesizer centred ‘A Journey To Reedham’. A soup of bleeps, bass and beats swim and flow before Squarepusher ends the night with a timely bass outro and the prospect of a new week looms.
When Jenkinson left his SH101 synth for a more freewheeling style there was talk that dark days had arrived. If that is the case, the clouds are nowhere to be seen tonight as a crowd of smiles enters the Belfast night in the wee hours of Monday morning.