“Squaaaaaaare waaaaaave… adventures” croaks a bionic voice from some equidistant retro future, opening up a wormhole into a 8-bit dimension where dusty beats and deep, soul-searching grooves plot a tempered journey through some psychedelic multiverse, like Leisure Suit Larry on the oriental express. Torb the Roach & Floppy McSpace return to King Underground for their latest release, their sophomore effort for the UK label. The mysterious Norwegian duo brought their unique take to beats genres like Hip hop to the label for the first time on “Tape Echo – Gold Floppies” and return with an effort that shows a slight evolution in their sound.
If the Residents had produced music for video games with Parliament Funkadelic as a session band and Delia Derbyshire in the producer’s chair, somewhere in that opaque quantum realm, that’s where “Square Wave Adventures” resides. Between Torb’s key work and Floppy’s sampling, they took Hip Hop to some very exotic locations on “Tape Echo – Gold Floppies,” and on this latest record, they’ve turned their attention to the virtual world. With more focus on some original material, but still retaining that nostalgia only a vinyl sample can deliver they’ve certainly caught onto something original for “Square Wave Adventures.”
Built on a sturdy foundation of golden-era Hip Hop beats rolling along at a languid pace, “Torb and Flop” add layers of off-beat samples, deep keys and funky synthetic leads to time-honoured rhythms in their musical pursuit on the LP. There’s an exoticism that lays dormant behind the dusty beats, with obscure samples weaving through retrofitted space-aged Moogs and fm synthesisers. Tracks like “Nakkeslang” and “Er På Punjab” encourage evocative links to the east as imported samples find some unfathomable synergy with those bold Moog synths and syncopated percussive rhythms.
There’s that more traditional approach to beat-music, like their previous LP in terms of tracks like “Varm Luft” and “Flyter Rund” but it’s when all the elements conspire around tracks like “Klisterfóre” and “Brennmanet” that “Square Wave Adventures” really thrives. It’s especially effective when Torb adds that element of funk through his key work on the Moog, channeling the spirit of Sly Stone though some oscillating ouija board. Everything is obviously related to or expounding on the SP1200 at the centre of each track, the machine’s distinctive noise leaving its immoveable mark on each track, but unlike the first LP this is not where all the charm lies on “Square Wave Adventures,” even if that’s what the cover art would presume.
It’s when “Square Wave Adventures” completely breaks with conventions that he makes it’s most formidable mark, and it’s its curiosities that sets it apart from anything else happening in Hip Hop and breakbeat music today.