LIVE: Squarepusher presents Shobaleader One – Gorilla, Manchester
If there’s one thing you can bank on when it comes to Tom Jenkinson aka Sqaurepusher, it’s that however encyclopaedic you deem your knowledge to be, you never really have the slightest clue what he’s going to do next.
His live show has taken a host of different forms over the last two decades, from the loops, virtuoso bass playing and balearic percussion that made him a modern fusion master, through to the mechanical accompaniment provided by his pre-programmed Z-Machines robot band a couple of years back.
It seems slightly ironic then, that perhaps the greatest level of intrigue came when Jenkinson revealed he would be hitting the stage with a fully live band. That’s right… Actual humans playing instruments from front to back.
With this comes a certain amount of speculation as we approach the venue. Can Squarepusher’s trips through glitchy techno, drum ‘n’ bass and electronica be reimagined yet again?
Shobaleader One came to prominence on the 2010 album D’demonstrator, which saw Jenkinson turn his hand to a sleeker style of vocal-led pop music, but the show the band put on at Gorilla takes a very different route.
Instead a hugely excitable audience – after being warmed up by the suitably industrial R&B of Lafawnduh – are taken on a euphoric jazz-funk tour of Squarepusher’s back catalogue.
The four-piece introduce themselves with an onslaught of mutated dub straight from the space age. His ability to take ambience and psychedelia and make them sound frantic has always been pretty much unrivalled.
The dark robes and LED masks that all the band members wear maintain an air of mysticism, and continue the robotic theme, but the chemistry between them is purely human, featuring the kinds of improvisation and wig-outs that simply can’t be created on a computer.
We can’t be sure based on this setup, but many a report claims the band is made up of members from jazz-fusion outfit, Troyka.
Whatever their true identities, Jenkinson has chosen very carefully when putting his ensemble together.
The set flits between Squarepusher’s trademark warped virtuoso bass solos and some absolutely mind blowing drum fills. At times it feels like a complete inversion of the traditional band setup as laid back guitar and organ parts provide the backdrop.
But as the evening hurtles towards a searing crescendo, more jazz-fuelled numbers make way for a torrent of blues-rock that somehow still manages to hang on to its electronic edge.
To see a live band so confidently own a back catalogue dominated by computerised production has been pretty awe-inspiring. Not only have they done Sqaurepusher’s masterful artistry justice, but they have given it a new lease of life.