Inside their Funkhaus studio, records ready for release. Photo: CDM.

In one of the records we’ve been most anticipating this year, Mouse on Mars today release Parastrophics, a densely-layered Magnum Opus of a full-length album. If you want to audition the release before buying, there are two places where you can do so:

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SoundCloud has a set that will give you a taste
XLR8R has the full stream

But the overwhelming sense I’ve gotten talking to the duo (Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma) is that you should resist the temptation to stream this is the background whilst you respond to emails or sort your socks. If you want to hear it in the sort of environment the artists intend, in other words, you should find yourself a comfy couch, your favorite listening device, and listen to the higher-quality, lossless version. (“Mastered for iTunes” be damned. Come to think of it… anyone want to sell me a couch?)

Care and attention to detail is a real watch cry for the record, so another way to understand it – once you’ve done that proper listening – is to take in the superb behind-the-scenes video shot by Berlin’s Electronic Beats, top. (That’s the print and online magazine also known to locals as the best thing Deutsche Telekom has ever done with their spare change.) As part of the beloved Slices series, Holger Wick interviews the two in their studio at Funkhaus Berlin, the former-GDR broadcasting center whose recording facilities have been converted to new, more democratic use in the reunited city. There, it’s clear that the two apply craft and philosophy in equal, mixed measure, that the process of making is itself a kind of process of listening.

Perhaps the word that’s better than “quality” is “depth”: the reason the album demands close listening is the sense that you need to devote those neurons to a beyond-superficial experience of what’s happening, like donning 3D goggles and listening to the musical activity on more than just one level or plane. There are rhythmic and timbral lines to follow on multiple levels, a kind of digitally-constructed polyphony of both melody and sound, some of which unfold after repeated listens.

That said, it was equally a joy hearing the first live performance of the material at Berghain, as a featured act of the CTM Festival. There, the two improvised their way through the raw ingredients of the record almost as if a dance, their creative energy and enthusiasm unleashed in frenetic fashion. There were even some cameos of squealing and vocoded gestures on iPhones, powered by Pure Data patches, as a handheld instrument.

We should have more from this duo and a look at the record soon, following their lead and taking our time. In the meantime, sit back for some good listening and (thanks to Electronic Beats) watching – highly recommended.

Official notes, well worth reading in this case, I think:

Over the course of ten albums – not to mention an avalanche of side projects, remixes and collaborations – Jan St Werner and Andi Toma of Mouse On Mars established themselves as two of the most inventive and unpredictable artists in electronic music.

In 2012 Mouse On Mars’s triumphant return comes in the shape of Parastrophics, a life-affirming and constantly surprising album which is crammed with ideas, exuberance and sheer kinetic energy. It’s like listening to the entire history of pop music – distilled, refined and crystallized into a string of compulsive new shapes, full of glitter, intrigue and addictive detail. Atomised fragments from two lifetimes of listening flare and fade, tiny scraps of memory shrapnel hover, tantalizing and insubstantial, before being whisked away by the next impatient idea.

But despite all that restless curiosity, Parastrophics also demonstrates a peerless command of pace. Whereas some previous Mouse On Mars releases have bordered on the frenetic, their latest displays a subtle but persuasive sense of control. Even when tempos climb, 303s squirm and kick / snare patterns snap to brisk attention, there’s an elegance to the way that each element slips in and out of the mix which speaks, whisper it, of maturity. Parastrophics is as a playful as ever, but it’s never throwaway. The closing “Seaqz” is the perfect illustration, a frenetic romp which is perfectly held in check by gracefully undulating melodies; it brings into focus the beguiling sense of confidence that suffuses the whole record. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that – after six years away – Mouse On Mars have come back with their best record yet.

Chris Sharp

  • kid versus chemical

    1) sounds good!

    2) that’s a great minimoog pic, I love the way those things look, like furniture.

    3) this blog consistently crashes the safari browser on my iPad, like a crash every two minutes. Just an FYI, perhaps something that could be addressed somehow?

    • peterkirn

      Did that happen recently, the Safari crashes? (Do you know how to do a crashlog?) I can investigate. I suspect Safari’s browser, of course, but can see. 😉

    • kid versus chemical

      No, I’ve never done a crash log, I will look into it. It happens all the time, for many months, I can’t say when it started. Basically it just kicks me to the desktop, then when I re-open safari everything is the same as it was before.

  • Rui Guerreiro

    hi guys! loved this one.. lot’s of useful tips too 😉
    what are the iphone apps he’s using at the end? he mentions Wretch Machine, but I googled it and couldn’t find anything for the iphone.. do you know what it is?
    could you suggest some nice vocal fx apps for iphone?
    thanks a lot..

    • peterkirn

      These apps are not presently available publicly; they’re just used by the band. 😉

    • Rui Guerreiro

      ohh i see.. thanks anyway 😉

    • Brian

      This is slightly off-topic, and it maybe common knowledge, but with Apple’s closed system on the iPhone and iTunes/AppStore being the only way to install software onto an iPhone, how would there be “private” apps? How can someone create an app and install it on select phones without going through Apple to do it?

    • Jonah Sprout

      You can do it with an apple software developer license

  • Pillsbypost

    Sleep deprivation is a powerful tool…..

  • Bob Bell

    Awesome post! I bought the album today after watching this a while back and thinking how much fun it looked like they were having and this definitely comes through in the music. I haven’t the luxury of experiencing it via a couch as I’m at work so squeezing it in as and when but definitely sounds like a blast and very inspiring too, so much so I’m buying a Ping Pong bat n ball next week to record! Big props to Slices Mag too, always a pleasure watching these :)

  • Brian

    Man I really really want to like this. Mouse on Mars, specifically Autoditacker, is what got me into electronic music. But since Idiology, I’ve pretty much hated everything they’ve done. I feel like they lost their subtlety and sense of humor around then and decided to be a (lame) rock band.
    The clips on Soundcloud sound like they could have been outtakes from Radical Connector and Varcharz, so I’m not optimistic.

    • Happy Dog Man

      hmm. I disagree. I do think Varcharz and Radical Connector were a bit weaker than the things that came before, though both are still good, considering the things that came before rank among my favorite musical recordings ever made. Parastrophics is a major step up from their work during the 00s for me.

    • josé barrera

      well, i agree with Brian…really this is so bad to my ears…i really love his first albums the last i love was Niun niggung…after that I can,t listen anymore his music…it,s like one episode of South park when the characters  instead of listen the music hear people farting…

    • Christoph

      Hey Brian, that’s very cose to what I thought when listening to the Soundcloud-snippets, but I had to change my opinion, when I listened to the whole album. It seems to me like Monkeytowns extracted all the popular parts from the tracks for the Soundcloud prelistening instead of looking for the MoM-sound shine through. So you can give it a try here (full length):
      So there are still parts I don’t really get into, but the whole thing sounds much more promising to me than those excerpts!


    i’m curious how this sounds on vinyl…mastering for vinyl with this kind of music must have been and interesting endeavor.

  • Donfuan

    the awesomnes. thx for leading me to this!

  • mtvic

    They always seem to make it sound so easy.

  • Jm Jones

    I want to hear the new album! I really like all their work, from the first “ambient techno” to the latest “electro-indie-rock”, long life to MoM

  • cooptrol

    They have one of the most powerful live shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them twice, with a 6 year lapse in between. A table full of machines, miles of cables, and frenzy knob tweaking…