Review: Squarepusher’s Ufabulum

Squarepusher: Ufabulum

Squarepusher: Ufabulum (Warp, 5/15/12)

“Dark Steering”

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Previously a ceaseless innovator, recent Squarepusher albums have followed a holding pattern: a strange departure that feints at a new direction (the strangely light-fusion-inflected pop of Just a Souvenir; the truly weird, limp lounge on the conceptual not-actually-a-full-band Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator) is followed by an “okay, just kidding” return-to-form release (Numbers Lucent and Ufabulum, respectively).

Whereas Numbers Lucent retained Souvenir’s jazz/prog seventh chords, it grafted them to the harder-edged percussion that Squarepusher cut his teeth on. Ufabulum takes the wide-angle audiovisual glam of d’Demonstrator (light-up LED helmet and accompanying light show included) and adds the breaks, acid squelches, and stutters attendant to a more “traditional” Squarepusher sound.

The result is stunning in YouTube videos, where the audio syncs perfectly to the intricate monochrome light show. It’s all perfectly listenable, but it’s not inherently memorable as a Squarepusher album, as it bears many of the usual melodic hallmarks. Lots of scores and soundtracks get knocked for sounding “like a score” and missing something without the visual accompaniment, and one should think of Ufabulum as the soundtrack to a laser show. You can still lay down and chill out to it for an hour, but it won’t be the same without all the flashing lights.

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