Next to Aphex Twin, there is perhaps no-one more synonymous with the cringe inducing term “IDM” than Tom Jenkinson, better known to most as Squarepusher. Part virtuoso bass player, part programming wizard, Squarepusher has had a fantastically eclectic career, wowing both bedroom producers and wannabe Fleas alike.
Jenkinson’s earlier works came from a more jungle/drum’n’bass background, compared to his peers on Warp, whom have tended to emerge from the acid techno scene. His live show is really something to behold, with blistering slap bass, jaw-dropping visuals and music that sounds so futuristic it’d give even Hal 9000 an anxiety attack.
Squarepusher, like many of his contemporaries, has weaved elegantly through many different styles and genres. From his aforementioned earlier jazz jungle leanings like Feed Me Weird Things and Hard Normal Daddy to more esoteric and brutal digital explorations such as Ultravisitor and what we’re going to look at today; Go Plastic from 2001, in particular a little ditty of a track Tommib. For anyone who doesn’t know the track, here it is in it’s original glory:
Tommib is probably more familiar to the masses as “that weird Rhodes track from the Lost in Translation OST”, which to those who know it, is a great soundtrack. I want to take a quick look at getting close to the sound. I’ll be using Ableton Live but any DAW will do.
N.B this soundtrack is awesome and has contributions from Kevin Shields, Death in Vegas, AIR, Phoenix, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Sebastien Tellier, to name but a few. So if you’ve been living under a rock I would seriously recommend digging this one out.
Tommib is in the key of Db, which sounds like a pain-in-the-arse key signature but in actuality it’s “all the black notes plus a few white ones”, to those in the know.
Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
The motif is quite simple and repetitive, so they key to making it sound natural is the rubato feel. Here’s an excellent (and weirdly under appreciated) performance from YouTuber Leroy Illanois, who has kindly added the little black dots for us to play-along to.
Okay so if you didn’t catch that here is the main loop:
…and if you don’t read music here’s the piano roll:
[BTW if anyone from Ableton ever reads this, please consider adding a score editor in future, it would reach push the DAW over the edge for me <3. Ed.]