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:
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.