Don't you just hate obscenely talented people? Electronic virtuoso Tom Jenkinson's latest album is filled to 80 minute capacity with a massive outpouring of, well, musical notes. Many many thousands of them, in a array of styles, rooted in abstract electronica. There's plenty of that familiar Warp splutterage, speed fuelled tentacles of acid beats that are out there on the left with Aphex Twin's most extreme. The strong title track kicks things off in this vein, the richly textured beat and bass backdrop fuelling a piercing tune. Not a new sound, but still solid stuff in that style.
Although the transition to "I Fulcrum" seems completely natural when you listen to it, it was a surprise to suddenly hear free jazz interspersed with bleepery. It's a strangely appropriate marriage. What's most obscene for an electronica master is how well he can play the drums. Real drums. It's his exhilarating stick work that propels the jazz fusion pieces "Iambic 9 Poetry" and the proggy "Tetra-Sync", as well as some big whirling tunes. The chilled fusion-lite of "Circlewave" reminds me of what I've heard of (the recently passed) Gong percussionist Pierre Moerlen.
Abrasiveness and prettiness are casually mingled. "50 Cycles" is somewhere between full-on techno, industrial and hardcore hiphop. "Steinbolt" whips up its glitches into a wonderful dynamic orchestral frenzy. At the other end of the scale, there's even stuff to please Classic FM listeners. Ultra-soft classical guitar pastorals like "Andrei" and "Every Day I Love" bid us to "just relax" after all that hardcore clangery. It's almost too calculated.
The 80 minutes are not all essential. His virtuosity does become soulless sometimes. The bass solo "C-Town Smash" is a cold finger-twiddling exercise, and "An Arched Pathway" is too posey in its atonal wig-out, but it doesn't get bogged down for long. Like all virtuoso works, a lot of this seems to be made to impress. His pet cheering crowd samples (who he talks to at one point!) are clearly impressed, at least. And grudgingly, so am I, but more by the sheer variety of this monument than its technical wizardry.
June 3, 2005