‘Probably the most innovative songs in the world’: Squarepusher’s ‘Come on my selector’ by Kathryn Tyler

February 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm 9 comments

Modern music genres are pretty staid, with things recycled over and over again and rehashed as ‘different’. If something ‘new’ is developed it’s usually a fusion of things that already exist. Rock, R&B, even jazz have been stagnant for some years. So for innovation in modern music terms I always look to electronic music *people everywhere throw their hands up in horror*. OK people. I am not talking about the repetitive, monotous junk people often associate electronic music with. There is nothing innovative about this – there’s been little change since the first techno tracks were released in the mid 80s. I am talking about the possibilities that electronic music presents and the artists that are exploiting these with unbridled experimentation, pushing the boundaries.

Many of these artists are snapped up by Warp Records, the record label that has signed the likes of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Anti-Pop Consortium, Autechre and Boards of Canada. I had to include something on the Warp record label. And the most experimental of all the experimenters, making music when many were still spotty teenagers, are Squarepusher and Aphex Twin a.k.a Tom Jenkinson and Richard James. But who. Hmm. Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or Aphex Twin.

With not much between them for me I fall down tentatively on the side of Squarepusher, mainly because I saw him DJ at a house party in 1996, the year he released his first album ‘Feed me weird things’ and he blew my mind. A Squarepusher track can span 4 genres in 8 minutes. He fuses electronic music with jazz, developing beats using computer generated algorhythms to create often insane, sometimes erratic, always exciting, tracks. I get that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, just as freestyle jazz can make people want to stab their own eyes out with a pencil, Squarepusher can drive listeners over the edge with his fast paced, unsettling percussion. But it’s certainly innovative.

I had a veritable plethora to choose from when it came to tracks, but I’ve chosen one that also happens to have a totally kick-ass video courtesy of the legend that is Chris Cunningham. So for his services to music I select ‘Come on my selector’ by Squarepusher as my third and final track in the ‘probably the most innovative songs in the world’ series.

This song isn’t available on Spotify but you can watch and listen on YouTube

Listen to the ‘probably the most innovative songs in the world’ playlist and send us your suggestions or add them to the playlist as we’ve made it collaborative.

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Entry filed under: Just for fun, Most innovative songs in the world.

UK Universities could learn from Texas, where they admit the top 10% from every high school Local authorities helping innovators

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  February 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I wouldn’t go quite so far in dismissing all non-electronic music innovation. But what I would say is that what’s been exciting in rock, jazz, and R&B over the past few years, has, for the most part, been created by people who were clearly paying attention to what was happening in electronic music (I’m thinking of people like EST and Polar Bear in jazz, and Radiohead in rock).

    Incidentally, I haven’t watched that video since I was at university. It’s a classic.

    Reply
  • 2. alanlockey  |  February 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I agree with Doctor P. Electronic Music is the prime driver for contemporary music innovation, across the sphere.

    Disagree with the comment that there’s been little change since the techno tracks of the early 1980’s… I think there’s a variety of house music sub-genres that are creating new sounds every bit as unique as the likes of those mentioned in this blog. However, I would concede that the most interesting sonically of these artists do tend to be those that are farthest removed from the dancefloor.

    Thinking about this post raises ontological questions about music….what do we want from music, what function does it play, what (if anything) should it express?

    The reason I say this is because for all the undoubted aural pioneering of the above – and I include my house ‘sub-genres’ in this critique – there is, in my opinion, a paucity of great, timeless albums in their respective ouvres. (I’d highlight Trentemoller The Last Resort and Boards of Canada Music Has the Right Children as the exceptions)

    There is no doubting the innovation of these sonic pioneers, but that is what they are in the truest sense of that phrase. They chase after sound….. in short, I think, that when it comes to music, I may be a Conservative…

    And yes, Peter, I know that Trentemoller is Danish. (more on this guy later…)

    Reply
    • 3. The Innovation Unit  |  February 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      I agree with many of your points. But I hold steadfast to my claim that many areas of music are stagnant. I am not saying there is absolutely no innovation in any other music genre but I do think there is very little, particularly in comparison to electronica. Indie is perhaps an area that has seen great progress but rock, for me, reached its pinnacle of evolution with the prog movement in the 70s and imploded in on itself. When a species stagnates and ceases to evolve it risks extinction and sometimes, conditions associated with this, spark a huge leap in evolution, creating a ‘super species’. I wonder if this could happen to rock music? Neither punk nor grunge qualify for me! Anyway I digress. I don’t class Radiohead’s later work as rock at all. They left rock behind and embraced the age of electric.

      I’m not sure I agree with your points about electronic music and jazz. You can apply those generic conventions to music that is created electronically so where would this fit on the jazz spectrum? Boundaries become very blurred here. If a jazz musician uses electronic devices to make music at what point does it become electronica. And many electronic artists use real instruments, at what point, if they apply those conventions, does this become jazz? Squarepusher has many of these elements already – he certainly has the improvisation, conflicting rhythmic patterns and deviances from the expected rhythmic norms down. Nice one SQ. That’s what I like to call him. Well I did stand two feet away from once at a party back off!

      On the point of ‘what is music for’ – music is as music does. That’s what my mother used to say…..

      Reply
  • 4. alecpatton  |  February 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

    What about Bjork? I’d say most of her albums since Homogenic have a shot at timelessness.

    Incidentally, Joanna Newsom is unquestionably innovative, and only very faintly electronica-influenced (certainly the fragmented cut-up sounding piano of ‘Easy’ owes something to the Matthew Herbert school of electronic music, and I’m of the belief that ‘The Book of Right On’ is, at heart, basically a hip hop track).

    I wonder if music that fits easily into a genre that’s been around for a while does so because it’s not very innovative. So saying ‘there’s no innovative rock or jazz’ is tautological, because innovative music by definition sounds so different from the rock and jazz that has come before.

    Which brings me to the point that there is a qualitative difference between the category ‘electronic music’ and the category of ‘jazz’, since the former is classified by the sorts of instruments being used (computers) and the latter by a set of generic conventions.

    Reply
  • 5. Alan Lockey  |  February 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Re: Bjork – it’s a pigeonholing thing. I wouldn’t, despite the obvious influences, personally put her in the Electronic Music box. She’s rather someone who has been influenced by EM and woven it into her sound.

    Certainly she’s in the Timeless bracket though.

    As for JN, well as I mentioned, you’ll be hearing more from me about her later…

    Reply
  • 6. alecpatton  |  February 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    TheInnovationUnit:

    If a jazz musician uses electronic devices to make music at what point does it become electronica. And many electronic artists use real instruments, at what point, if they apply those conventions, does this become jazz?

    This is exactly my point – jazz and electronic music aren’t different genres, they’re different types of taxonomical categories. Saying ‘is this jazz or is it electronica’ is like saying ‘is this food Thai, or is it cooked in an oven?’

    Reply
  • 7. Alan Lockey  |  February 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I don’t think there’s necesseraily an argument here… If someone says Electronic Music to me, I instinctively think of someone like Squarepusher not, I don’t know…. err… Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark.

    The former primarily uses a real bass guitar. The latter use nearly all synths… bad example perhaps but you get the picture.

    I realise that I’ve been thinking about the nonemclature of electronic music far more than is healthy for a young man, but personally I don’t think ‘electronic music’ refers exclusively to equipment used. But I realise that, like most genres, it is a conceptually flaccid description.

    Reply
  • 8. kathrynrosetyler  |  February 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Everyone knows Thai food is cooked in a wok.

    I don’t think many jazz fans would agree with you. I like “Intelligent dance music” as a classification for loads of Warp stuff, it’s such an unimaginative title, maybe taxonomy itself needs a more innovative approach come on people.

    It’s interesting that no one has mentioned trip hop so far. One of the few music genres to have originated in the UK. AND good nomenclature.

    Reply
  • 9. alanlockey  |  February 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I hate the IDM description. Intelligent… it’s horrible. Urgh.

    Don’t be down on the UK… genres might not be indigenous but you’d be hard pressed to find a better or more varied music scene anywhere in the world.

    Reply

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