Mouse on Mars


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The early 2010s saw the resurgence of some of the acts that made electronic music so vital in the '90s and early 2000s, such as Plaid and, especially, Mouse on Mars. It felt like the duo burned their music down to the ground with 2006's abrasive Varcharz, after which they seemingly disappeared. However, during the nearly six years between that album and Parastrophics, Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma were busier than ever together and separately, collaborating with the Fall's Mark E. Smith on Von Südenfed's playful dancefloor workouts, working on solo projects and crafting the electro-orchestral live piece Paeanumnion. This lengthy absence paid off: Parastrophics reveals just how much Mouse on Mars' sophisticated mischief was missed while they were gone, and testifies to just how malleable yet distinctive their music is. Bits of their previous albums can be heard throughout -- "They Know Your Name"'s absurdist hooks evoke the brash alien pop Toma and St. Werner have made since Idiology, and "Weinuss"' acid bleeps reach even further back to Autoditacker -- but it never feels like the duo are blatantly repeating themselves. It's just that Mouse on Mars' try-anything sonic density is immediately recognizable, whether they're ripping the guts out of a synth, as it sounds like they're doing on "Seaqz," or mixing sizzling electronics with heavily filtered exotica on "Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted." Parastrophics is one big gerund, a wobbling, bouncing, skittering riot of textures, including station-to-station chatter and found sounds that give the album a uniquely open feel. Yet their playfulness never overwhelms their technique, and vice-versa: on "Imatch," they skillfully shift the focus from the simple melody to the complex arrangement and back again. If this album doesn't sound exactly in keeping with much other 2010's electronic music, it doesn't sound dated, either. Despite its density, there's a sleekness to Parastrophics' tracks that feels timeless and immediate. "Metrotopy"'s glistening textures and ping-ponging percussion are majestic and nimble at the same time, with an underlying funkiness that comes to the fore on some of the album's other stand-out tracks. "Polaroyced"'s massive bassline and rubbery melody nod to classic electro, albeit in a warped MoM way, while "Syncropticians"'s satisfying squish and "Gearknot Cherry"'s tight syncopation have a kinship with Debruit and Hudson Mohawke's post-funk workouts. Ultimately, though, Mouse on Mars sound only like themselves on Parastrophics, an album that's a rebirth and a welcome return for one of electronic music's most restlessly creative acts.

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