Delicate Sonic Constructions

Motion is one man, Chris Coode, and Pictures (Motion) collects a dozen of his delicate sonic constructions. A first listen will focus, no doubt, on the ephemeral nature of the sounds from which these deceptively thin compositions are made: what seem like small bells and sitar and piano appear in a slow progression. But these sounds — incorrectly identified above, no doubt — are only part of the story, because Coode intersperses them with a substantial leavening of more mysterious material. Some of these stranger sounds result, likely, from his editing of the familiar snippets — what sounds like piano is replaced with what may simply be the piano’s distant echo; what sounds like bell is overshadowed by what may be a choice split-segment of the ringing tone. A track titled “Field” opens with the sort of choral synth that might launch a house anthem, but the downbeat never arrives. Another, titled “Snapshots,” shuffles squirts of noise while a childlike melody sets the pace. And pace may be Coode’s strongest gift as a musician, the way he uses space to create surprises and associations, drama and grace.

Plastic Man

Before embarking on a 2001 tour of the United States, Squarepusher talked about the personal challenges of making challenging music.

Squarepusher, born Tom Jenkinson, has long distinguished himself as one of Britain’s leading pop avant-gardists. Warp Records, the label that releases his work, is also home to Aphex Twin and Autechre — and along with those two acts he has played a significant role defining contemporary electronic music.

Like them he has prioritized the computer as a musical instrument in the public consciousness, though he doesn’t have Aphex’s name recognition or Autechre’s legions of imitators. What he has is a uniquely aggressive body of recorded work, as exemplified by his 2001 album, Go Plastic, 10 tracks that range from catchy and upbeat to maddeningly noise-addled.

That madness may be his defining characteristic. Trying to locate a specific melodic theme in most Squarepuser compositions is like plotting a course in choppy seas; after a while, one learns to simply take comfort in remaining afloat.

Jenkinson has received considerable attention for the influence of jazz, especially the early electric fusion of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, on his own decidedly digital work. That influence is most apparent on his Music Is Rotten One Note album, with its emphasis on an organized chaos that sounds highly reminiscent of group improvisation.

The Go Plastic album is marked by a similar brand of electronic rigor, but it also contains one of the most accessible songs of Squarepusher’s career, a chipper single titled “My Red Hot Car,” which drops an obscene lyrical fragment over a skittery, danceable rhythm.

In June of this year, just before he embarked on a solo tour of the U.S., Squarepusher took time to discuss his solitary life, hit work ethic and his listening habits.

Marc Weidenbaum: One of the best things about the single, “My Red Hot Car,” off your recent album, Go Plastic, is that it’s the first thing you’ve released in a while that someone could play for a friend to introduce them to your work. It’s listener-friendly.

Squarepusher: So many people say that. Yeah, yeah: “This one might make sense.” Continue reading “Plastic Man”