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Squarepusher Presents Ubufalum Live at the Roundhouse, London

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Tom Jenkins aka long term Warp artist Squarepusher is not a name I am overly familiar with, whilst am certainly aware of his technical prowess, bad ass bass playing skills and ability to incorporate just about any genre into his trademark sensory assault.  I approached the roundhouse in Camden town, home to his new show Ufabulum with quite some anticipation. The name of the event is taken from the prolific Squarepushers 13th album, entitled Ufabulum and Enstrobia and promised to be “an audiovisual assault featuring a synapse shorting LED display designed and programmed by Squarepusher himself”

The Roundhouse is definitely one of the best live venues in London, a former railway engine shed in chalk farm. Even on busy nights the queues never take more than a few minutes to get in the staff are always friendly and this night was no exception. The venue is circular which makes for very interesting stage views and for such a massive space the sound is always top notch.

Entering through the main doors it appears that BASS is the flavor of the night as a gut-wrenching sub sonic frequency immediately hits me square in the solar plexus.  Not unpleasant and filling 360 degrees of the venue it gives a flavor of what was in store.  Support act The Bug were in full flow by now and turntablist Kevin Martin was slamming filthy  basslines  and tough otherworldly raga beats into the function one sound system, not an unfamiliar sound but one they are firmly putting there own stamp on and doing very well in the process . Accompanied by three MC’s FlowDan, Daddy Freddy and female MC Red added an excitement to the show and bounced off each other well event at one point attempting a touch of good old fashioned  riot inciting by advising the crowd to “kill the politician’s”  – all in jest I feel. All in all The Bug played a confident and very well received set;  their latest single ‘Hardcore Lover’ is out now on 7” vinyl on Acid Ragga and is well worth checking out for those that way inclined musically.

As The Bug signalled their last tune the moombahton beats were drawn to a close and the fun and games were swiftly replaced with you guessed it, more bass. This time one throbbing tone anticipates the arrival of Squarepusher. The crowd tonight consist of 80% male, 60% percent of those with beards 20% female, 10% of those unimpressed girlfriends so I would say that it’s fair to say it’s a somewhat cult following and the fans that were in attendance and they took the artist pretty seriously. As the man of the moment took the stage there was definitely an excitement in the crowd as to what we were about to receive, and as the chaotic firing squad of  beats hit, encompassing the stage in what looked like a monumental halo of strobing lights syncing with every militant unsyncopated rhythm. Squarepusher was donning what looked like an arch welding visor with a video screen running the light images also taking up all of the big screens behind him. Musically it was awkward and in some places unfathomable with rhythms and melodies pulling in and out of different time grids but with the occasional sense of conformity to hint at a hook and bring everything back to place. This was no bad thing as the crowd were loving it and even if the erratic dancing on display was slightly confused it certainly kept my interest and there is no doubt that Squarepusher is still the Godfather of his sound. The light show truly is a spectacle and the nature of the way it synched to the music makes the listening experience far more comprehensible.

For the encore things really got interesting as he appeared back on stage with an electric bass looking like Bootsy Collins playing Jeff Bridges in Tron, awesome! I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Tom Jenkins play bass live but boy the man can play and when his bass is seemingly lit up like a Christmas tree he’s on fire. His instrument again flashing in synch to every note he plays its quite something to behold, although some of the noodling perhaps going on for a little too long becoming slightly self indulgent in a 20 minute slap-a-thon.

The nights show was what exactly what it promised – an audio visual assault and I did thoroughly enjoy it as a spectacle although I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many other artists doing similar projects at the moment such as Amon Tobin and DJ Shadow and for this writer feel it didn’t quite match up in terms of pulling me along for the ride with artists whose work I’m more familiar with. 

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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