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3.9 out of 5 stars
Ufabulum
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2012
Hate to start this review on a negative note but this needs to be said: I didn't like Squarepusher's last two albums, not even a little bit. I found the last record unlistenable, vocoder Zap! style vocals saying a whole lot of nothing over some technically accomplished but soulless funk and pop, nothing challenging or dangerous or new about it at all. The record before that, Just a Souvenir, had three decent tracks, the rest just didn't do it for me, I hated the vocals and the faux pop-rock style of it all. I did however enjoy the Numbers Lucent EP.

The new album is a refreshing departure from recent explorations. It's far more electronic sounding, the most all-out electronic Squarepusher album since Selection Sixteen, which is arguably his most solid album to my ears after Music Is One Rotted Note. It's not super-challenging like Ultravisitor, nor is it OTT and grating like Go Plastic. It's also really upbeat! Especially the first half of the record, tunes are downright happy, and although I like when Squarepusher is moody and dark and experimental, he knows how to make really joyful and happy music too. But don't worry for there is a little darkness and experimentation on here too, Drax 2 being a good example of that, and arguably the best song on the record. There are other great standout tunes like the album's opener 4001, the acid madness of Scopem Hard 303, or the amazing soundtrack to some non-existent videogame in Stadium Ice. Dark Steering needs a mention too, a mish-mash of race-car engine sounds, the roland 303, and SP's crazy timing.

So Squarepusher fans, if you really dug his previous two records then you might not like this one so much. If you like his more electonic-sounding stuff, and especially if you're into the 303, you will like this album. I'd say personally that it's his best record since Ultravisitor,and although it doesn't have anything like the incredible Iambic 9 poetry, as an album it's more listenable from start to finish than Ultravisitor and perhaps any of his other albums.

For people who are new to Squarepusher, this is probably an ideal starting place as it's rather accessible but still gives a taster of Mr Jenkinson's more extreme and experimental side.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes artists produce their most interesting work when they start to become influenced by the artists who they themselves influenced.

This may or may not be the case with "Ufabulum".

In my opinion, Tom Jenkinson is too clever for his own good sometimes. On this occasion, this sounding-a-bit-like-Daft-Punk-on-the-first-five-tracks business may be part of his cunning plan. Or it may not. As it happens I don't care, because this is perhaps Jenkinson's best LP ever. Unlike some of his other records it is, intentionally or not, a take it as you find it release (i.e. there's little in the way of irony).

"Ufabulum" is, as some previous reviewers have noted, an album of two halves - the first half being Squarepusher's surprising apparent new Judge Jules-friendly (well maybe not that friendly) direction and the second being more recognisably 'pusher in his original (Aphex-influencing?) form, with the (brilliant) final track "Ecstatic Shock" tying the two themes together. Either side of the divide, this is a CD (if you play it enough) whose melodies you will find replaying in the jukebox in your head at odd moments in the day (in my case, "Stadium Ice" on a Tuesday morning visit to the office vending machine).

When Squarepusher's on (clean, crisp, electronic) form, there's nobody to beat him. If you don't know Squarepusher then why not start here?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2013
Squarepusher's latest album Ufabulum... It came out about a year ago and I've been listening to it on and off since. As a whole. the album feels very much an album of two halves, split right down the middle, showcasing arguably some of his best work and some of his most uninspiring.
The first track feels very much like it's designed to be euphoric and uplifting, but it fails to strike any sort of a chord with me. The next 2 or 3 songs follow similar suit with soaring synth parts and catchy (annoying) melodies. All of these songs get a similar sort of review from me, the first half of the album honestly sounds like a cross between a soundtrack to the worst Sega Saturn Game you can imagine and the kind of background music you hear when the league tables appear on Eurosport's coverage of the bobsleigh. And I cant stress that enough. Even though there are enjoyable moments hidden in there, I always get those sort of images in my head. I was very much surprised to hear the track 'Unreal Square' make an appearance during the BBC's coverage of the Olympics last year... so I can only imagine a couple of their producers had a similar feeling towards those tracks that I did. It almost feels like those songs were designed for that specifically, which makes for a rather offputting listen as an album.
'Red In Blue' acts as a sort of quiet before the storm and a significant turning point. All remaining tracks feel somewhat darker, noisier, more atmospheric, more energetic, chaotic... It's like an entirely different album altogether. Some of it could be described as an uneasy listen, but in a way that feels way more exciting and uplifting than anything the first half had to offer. Definitely 'edge of your seat' music, and each remaining track has an entirely different way off getting that across.
The track 'Dark Steering' is probably among my favourite songs from last year, and the fact I still listen to that and the rest of Ufabulum probably doesn't mean it's a bad album, I just think it's a confusing release as I love some parts and hate others... If the tracks from 'The Metallurgist' onward had been released as 'The Ufabulum EP' I'd give that EP 5 stars... no question, and if that questionable first half had been released as it's own EP with some nice colourful cover art, I dare say I'd look at that in a different perspective. But Maybe I'm over-analyzing things.
So in all, some very very good stuff, and some uninspiring 'annoying' stuff, but I guess i do find myself with a similar opinion with regards to Squarepusher's discography. I absolutely love some parts of it, and some parts don't do as much for me. But in a way I'm glad he does release his albums in the way he does. I'd chose extremes of good and bad any day over a discography of complete mediocrity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2012
Squarepusher for me has for a few years been producing albums with occasional standout moments, but nothing coherent in its entirety. Too focused on perverse sonic warfare, without good enough tunes to serve as a valid platform for the constant assault of shifting beats. At his best I've found him to be astonishingly unique and vibrant, but I feel I've been waiting for him to reach those heights again for a while now. For example, Hello Everything had some good moments, but frustratingly few of them and they felt somehow too restrained for my liking. Albums like Ultravisitor I found tedious and unlistenable.

This, on the other hand, comes out of the gate with some serious pace, and holds its own right through to the last track. The constant shifting soundscapes are still there but bent to service actual melodies and coherently structured music. Listening to the entire album in one sitting can get a bit wearing if you're not quite in the right frame of mind for it - it is harsh and relentless, but musical enough to pull it of this time, and I find myself returning to tracks like the phenomenal Dark Steering again and again and again. Highly recommended.
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on 27 February 2014
I've been aware of Squarepusher/Tom Jenkinson for a long time, yet only have bought a couple of EPs, having tended to park myself down the trance and ambient end of the spectrum these past few years. So this CD was a random purchase made last week, chiefly on the basis that the cover intrigued - part homage to Daft Punk, perhaps, and also very like the get-up that Pet Shop Boy Chris Lowe has been sporting on their recent "Electric" tour. Anyway, enough to make me buy this CD and I do not regret it. This is, for me, as mind-blowing as listening to the first "proper" Ministry LP, (1986s Twitch), say, and experiencing that colossal 10 mins rhythm assault that consituted the final track. I love classic synths and this is very much a synth-led album. And classic Industrial too in parts. This is also a very well sequenced album that transits from what I am led to believe from reading other reviews is a more easy-going SP experience to more standard fare as the CD unrolls. So here's my track by track review.
(1) 4001 is monumental, skittering rhythms clearly hand-tooled and crafted to minimise rhythmic repetitions, a gentle Mayday-ish soft synth drone in the background and a rather club-friendly pare it down and build it up again segue into the main theme- imagine if Goldie (see below) had remixed the Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind, disembowling it and only keeping the orchestral stabs that run through that particular tune. And then moved the notes around to boot. The beats stop-start-accelerate like a juggernaut negotiating a racetrack without crashing (just). Awesome.
(2) Unreal Square. Starts with a cheesy vintage arcade game melody that sounds like its played on a Stylophone, then brings in what sounds like the Duracell bunny on percussion, before Jenkinson hits his stride with his rhythms, before going all Prog-synth and accelerating into a dubset conclusion, savaging and distorting the melody in the process.
(3) Stadium Ice (or should that be stadium dry ice?) starts off like 70s soft jazz-rock and is basically a bunch of interlocking woozy synth lines that evoke Yes, Genesis or ELP, punctuated by Pastorius-like bass runs that appear to be made by a Daft Punk-esque vocoded synth. Bet you'll be humming it note-perfect the day after. This sets the prog mood nicely for......
(4) Energy Wizard, an energetic little synth and beatbox number that goes all Wendy Carlos-classical halfway through. Part Clockwork Orange, part Momus in his Analogue Baroque period.
(5) Talking of Wendy Carlos, Red in Blue acts as a quiet bridge between what are essentially sides 1 and 2 of this album. Its a thoughtful sort of ambient piece, again with something of a prog vibe, with what sounds like synthi horns used extensively. Reminiscent of Bill Nelson's "Simplex" album or some of the relaxed work of Eno and Cluster. Or think Treefingers by Radiohead, strategically placed at the halfway point in their "Kid A" album (one of the best short pieces of ambient I know).
(6) The Metallurgist. And here begins the second half of the record, a more continuous cycle of skittering, mutated drum n bass rhythms and other hard sounds. Metallurgist begins with a frightening-sounding, icy cold stacatto synth before the beats break in. Rather reminiscent of Goldie's dismantling of Milk by Garbage, if you know that great remix.
(7) Drax 2. A villain in a Bond film or a non-nuclear power station - take your pick. Certainly the most filmic piece on this collection, maintaining a nice balance between the subtle beauty of the melody and the beats. Builds slowly to a nicely frenetic pitch that leads into .......
(8) Dark Steering. The Top Gear track. Starts with a few beeps that sound straight out of Alien, then finds its rhythmic feet, echoes tracks 7 and 3 in the melodies, then develops into a fast-paced cacophany of skewed F1 noises with what sounds like "The Exorcist" Theme in the background. It also recalls (for me) Rosi Mosimann's/Clint Ruin's Wiseblood incarnation and the mighty "Motorslug/Death Rape 2000" 12".
(9) 303 Scopem Hard. Basically a dub continuation of 8.
(10) Ecstatic Shock. A more mellow return to the first half of the CD. When its over, you're ready to start again. Put on repeat and enjoy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2012
This review relates to the VINYL edition.

True, its in a nice box, although unessicary, and a book thing and a CD E.P.

BUT - It sounds horrible. In fact the whole album sounds like its either been transfered onto a cassette and mastered from that OR the source recording was gated/limited/compressed so much that it was impossible to do a good cut of it. There is no sense of dynamics, bass, middle or treble, it all hits a "limit" and rounds it off.

The material is pretty good, in fact its Tom's best LP for years, but I cannot say its a great quality listen. It doesn't even sound good on an iPod.

Regardless of what format you listen to this on, be it CD/MP3/Vinyl/Flac, it will always sound like you are playing a cassette. Was this intentional?

Coming of the back of the outstanding Planet MU's vinyl re-issue of Venetian Snare's "Rossz csillag alatt született" (available at a mere fraction of this price) I am so disappointed with this lavish production's sound quality. Again, it may of been recorded like this though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Man, this one grows on you. Same feeling I had when I first heard Aphex Twin - an initial "WTF?" gives way to your brain finally hearing the complex rhythms, hihats from hell... I'll be listening to this years from now. Infectious, energetic and fun.
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on 18 June 2012
I am a big fan of Squarepusher and for me the top albums where Just Souvenir, Hello Everything. Recent Number Lucent was very cool too. However since d'Demonstrator Tom Jenkinson turns into direction I am not a big fan of. Mostly because I sense a bit of lack of invention, rythym or variety of sounds shapes. However if you liked d'Demonstrator then probably you will like Ufabulum. And as will all big creators it may happen for me, that I will start liking this album after a while.
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on 28 November 2013
Sound design of the highest degree, plus you can dance and hum along. This almost goes far enough, it never does not enough, rip up a frequency or two more or less and we might have a perfect album. Best you play this at a super massive marrow trembling volume for full effect, this is IMAX music, or AMAX if you will. Dark dark dark but lit up bright by imposing futuristic lazers. Deadly.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2012
I haven't heard Squarepusher in this mood since Hard Normal Daddy (1997). The shiny production presented here in Ufabulum of 2012 is truly incredible; a masterclass in timbre dynamics, fresh rhythmic creativity and an overflowing pot of idea diversity. Tom has jammed a wealth of durable listening material into a very appealing number of 10 consumable tracks, demonstrating to his die-hard fans that the divine spirited 'Beep Street' maker is still very much breathing and hasn't drowned by experiment.

Of course, like many original fans; we are hugely selfish and biased in our opinion of what Tom is doing and why. Being an artist myself; I don't beat the guy over the head and if you're a true fan, you'll have a 'yes' answer to the question he asked all of us.. Do you know Squarepusher? If you do, you'll grasp his innate tendency as an artist to morph, re-invent and stay current. Style-thieves will come a croppa with the likes of 'The Metallurgist' which sets an extremely high bar to follow.

Would this album be as special after a string of Hard Normal Daddy's? I doubt it. Would his versatility of production or quality of sound palette be as quaint or beautifully alien to your ears now without the Ultravisitor's or Shobaleader's? I doubt that too. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour. Good means nothing without bad.
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