Shobaleader One frenzied and fired-up at Village Underground

You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. In the case of Squarepusher (aka Tom Jenkinson) and his monstrous live set-up of towering twin Marshall amps, homemade super-computer to frizzle-fry his alien-looking six-string bass and shimming LED facemask this is a man, and band, ready for some serious sonic warfare. Indeed, Shobaleader One, first appearing on record in 2010, are his hooded, LED-masked group who until they made their first public appearance at the Troxy in late 2015, were merely a menacing figment of Jenkinson's wild imagination. The band themselves are clearly highly-skilled jazz musicians – and with their perfectly warped 2000 AD-esque pseudonyms Strobe Nazard (keys), Company Laser (drums) and Arg Nution (guitar) they exude an oddball automaton nature, dispatching Squarepusher's churning, chugging electro funk riffage with po-faced mechanised precision. There's a reason for all of this of course, as one of electronic music's most-feted pioneers downed all pre-programmed tools in protest at dance music's homogenous malaise. His subsequent dive into incendiary drum'n'bass-disco-dub-jazz-funk-thrash is something akin to a one-man protest movement in favour of real-time human performance.

shobaleader3

So what began as an opportunity to explore some of his 1990s classics from Feed Me Weird Things and Hard Normal Daddy, has expanded to songs from the Shobaleader One album, as well as a blistering 'Hello, Meow' from Hello Everything and the darkly-metallic thrash of 'Delta V' from Just a Souvenir. Opener 'Cooper's World' warms things up nicely with its dramatic dead-stops and hairpin turns, Jenknson's bass pushing the band along. Things step up a gear with the jerky disco of 'Hello Meow', Jenkinson unleashing his first fuzzed-out thumb-heavy bass break, whipping up a wall of syncopated snaps and pops.

shobaleader1

There's some respite in the dreamy guitar chords of 'Iambic 9 Poetry' before the full-on wonky jazz of 'The Swifty' once more featuring the bassist's virtuoso soloing, this time with a keyboard sound emanating from his fingerboard via some impressive technical trickery. It's a high-stakes, high-risk set up when any form of computing power is involved and the momentary laptop fail and keyboard malfunction (thankfully, not at the same time) provide the band with a chance to improvise with aplomb, the second incident just ahead of 'Anstromm Feck 4' – a ferocious face-melting live take on 'The Modern Bass Guitar' – with Nazard switching solos with Jenkinson, and the head-smashing drumming of Laser once more cramming in more break beats per bar than seems humanly possible.

While Jenkinson may indulge his bass playing on the likes of 'E8 Boogie' and 'Deep Fried Pizza', how many other über-producers out there could adopt a completely new, live, way of playing their music and in turn create one of the most ferociously brilliant live bands on the planet right now? Er, one. It'll be fascinating to see how this project develops, but for now there's a thrilling new double live album, Elektrac, to enjoy and many more live appearances to witness its evolution, live, real and raw.

– Mike Flynn

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