Von Südenfed

Tromatic Reflexxions

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Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith enjoyed working together on the 12" version of "Wipe That Sound" so much that they decided to give their collaboration its own full-fledged identity, Von Südenfed (a witty mash-up of Germany's süden -- that is, southern -- region and the decongestant Sudafed). Though much has been made of how strange this pairing of artists is, it's really not that unpredictable: Smith, Andi Toma, and Jan St. Werner all like to defy expectations. More to the point, Smith has made a career of breaking and re-forming language in his own image, and in much the same way, Toma and St. Werner keep reconfiguring their music. Besides, getting hung up on the "quirkiness" of Von Südenfed's origins overlooks just how enjoyable Tromatic Reflexxions really is. It's clear that the trio shares a playful, fruitful creative spark -- even "That Sound Wiped," which uses leftover pieces from the initial "Wipe That Sound" collaboration, barely resembles its source materials. Sonically speaking, Tromatic Reflexxions is aggressively accessible, combining the tussling beats and splattered synths of Varcharz with the poppy, structured approach of Radical Connector, as well as elements of electro, dub, shortwave, hip-hop, and much more. The album leads off with three of its strongest tracks: "Fledermaus Can't Get Enough"'s irascible beats and vocals sound like LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge" went over the edge, while "The Rhinohead" brandishes a stomping beat and some of Smith's most melodic vocals in a long time. "Flooded," which is based on a dream St. Werner had of showing up to a gig only to find another DJ there, is a surreal, subterreanean dancefloor emergency, complete with synths that sound like sirens and sonar-like echoes on Smith's vocals. Speaking of Smith, he is as cerebral and caustic as ever; when you can make out what he's ranting about, it usually sounds like an internal conversation or argument, as on "Family Feud," a domestic dispute with Smith voicing all the relatives. "Speech Contamination/German Fear of Osterreich" blurs his versions of English and German together into a third, irresistibly rhythmic tongue. With tracks like "The Young the Faceless and the Codes," you can listen closely for the cheeky wordplay, or just appreciate how perfectly Smith fits into the mix, as on "Serious Brainskin." Tromatic Reflexxions leaves some of its most surprising songs for last, like the cranky, acoustic driven hoe-down "Chicken Yiamas" or the lilting, Afro-pop-tinged "Dearest Friends," which closes out the album. Brimming with gleeful collisions of sounds and words and puzzles you can dance to, this is an immensely fun working holiday.

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