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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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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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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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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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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 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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on 17 July 2013
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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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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on 12 April 2013
After being guttingly dissapointed by the Shobaleader One project, I was prepared for the worst so this album came as a very pleasant surprise. After years of live instrument focused ventures like Just a Souvenir, Solo Electric Bass 1 and Shobaleader, Squarepusher finally has swung right back across the broad spectrum of his music to revisit and update his purely electronic sound, as such some comparisons to Go Plastic are abound although the style and approuch of Ufabulum is quite radically different.

Gone are the sample based (often amen) breakbeats, on this album you can hear each individual drum sound has been placed by itself and manipulated with care, often ride cymbals slide and blur in strange, silky flurries. The first half of the album is laced with the kind of medlodic focus that's come into play since Hello Everything, particularly on the accessable and funky tracks Stadium Ice and Energy Wizard. The towering moments of side one however are the first 2 tracks, 4001 begins with a great beat, goes on to show Pusher hasn't lost his penchant or talent for acid basslines and then explodes into a chorus of furious, driving, effervescent trance with an infectious beat that keeps renewing it's assault every few bars. Unreal Square is classic Squarepusher mocking genre parody, like My Red Hot car was for 2 step but this time it's Dubstep he has in his sights, the cheesy orchestral refrain (so cheaply employed so often by dubstep producers) is one of the album's most jarring moments but it works and is well placed as a final middle finger before the twisted sonic blitzkrieg of the track's breakdown.

The album's second half will perhaps be more immediately pleasing to many Squarepusher fans as The Metellurgist takes things into darker territories, Drax 2 then seems like a natural centrepiece for the record with it's slow tense build as acid basslines seem to gather force and cinematic dark ambience climbs omenously up through the mix until it reaches it's final brief but thunderous attack. If one track's going to sell this record it's Dark Steering, apparently the soundtrack to Jenkinson's visions of nuclear apocolypse, it certainly fits that bill, somehow terrifying and uplifting at the same time and those shreikng engine sounds. The approiately titled 303 Scopem Hard is psychopathic sounding industrial funk at it's finest and the finale Ecstatic Shock reconciles the melodic lighter shades of the first side with the darker, winding beats of the second into one last brilliant blast of avant dancefloor madness, cohesive but packed with so many different ideas just like all his best work.
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