Squarepusher – Ufabulum

Album Review by Mark Shukla | 01 May 2012
  • Squarepusher - Ufabulum
Album title: Ufabulum
Artist: Squarepusher
Label: Warp
Release date: 14 May

“As much as Warp would love to nail me down to a plan, it’s not the way I do it... that’s why my career is such a mess,” said Tom Jenkinson in a 2010 interview with Drowned in Sound. It’s amusing, then, to imagine the rush of relief the label must have felt upon hearing the grandstanding symphonic euphoria of Ufabulum’s opening track, 4001 – a tune that has ‘commercial viability’ written all over it. It’s a pose that lasts a full 30 seconds before the shrill Gameboy melody line and hilariously depressed sounding bass wubs of Unreal Square (clearly an amused nod to Skrillex and co.) confirm that, yes, Tom is fucking with us again.

Jenkinson manages another couple of relatively accessible joints – Energy Wizard is a spunky upbeat workout, whilst Stadium Ice is what breakfast TV themes will sound like in the year 3000 – before the beatless synth noodle Red in Blue signals the onset of a full-on psychogenic fugue for poor old Tom. For whilst Jenkinson’s multiple personality disorder most usually takes hold in the period between each LP release, Ufabulum is uniquely divided into two distinct halves.

The diabolically quavering metallic timbres and nihilistic acid bassline of The Metallurgist mark the beginning of the album’s dark second half – and things only get more intense from there. With its lowering, dystopian squelch and tortured kinetic spasms, Drax 2 sounds like the twisted sister of Ultravisitor’s Steinbolt whilst 303 Scopem Hard appears to be Jenkinson’s attempt to create the most aggressively claustrophobic acid track of all time.

Dark Steering, on the other hand, employs glitched and stitched bass, oppressive quasi-human funk and ruthlessly cold intersecting melody lines to approximate the atmosphere of a Borg disco. It’s stirling stuff and underlines why the bass-heavy Ufabulum isn’t ideally suited to headphone listening – you’re really not getting the full experience unless you can feel a woofer punching obscene shapes into the air around your head. Ultimately Ufabulum’s jarring stylistic schism may make the album tough to digest for many people, but the quality of Jenkinson’s craftsmanship remains constant throughout.