Mouse on Mars


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Just in case anyone thought Mouse on Mars got too poppy and danceable on Radical Connector, its follow-up, Varcharz, is nearly its polar opposite: jagged, fractured, splintered, and downright violent-sounding, it's easily the most extreme music the duo has made, and is right in line with the rest of Ipecac's output. The album's squelchy, stuttering beats have ties to Mouse on Mars' noisiest, most abstract earlier work, such as Niun Niggung's "Distroia," but Varcharz is hardly a regression or a rehash. If anything, the way Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma repeat the tracks' simple themes and tweak them until they're just about to break into a million pixels makes the album among their most experimental work. This theme carries to song titles like "Chartnok" and "Retphase," similarly chopped-up bits and pieces of almost-recognizable words and self-explanatory, onomatopoetic syllables. "Bertney" is a particularly good example of Varcharz's modus operandi: beginning with a twinkling, mischievous melody that could've been borrowed from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, it's processed and disfigured until it's completely overridden by brutal hissing, scraping, and thumping. Even the most accessible tracks have a harsh edge; "Igoegowhygowego" rides an almost stupidly simple, insistent bassline borrowed from booty funk, which is then scribbled over with grating synths. Varcharz goes deep into the blackened heart of noise with "Duul," a relentless, ice-burned track that features the snarling, smoking remains of what may have once been a guitar over a seriously malfunctioning beat, and closes with "One Day Not Today," a 13-part onslaught of glitchy heaviness that explodes like digital shrapnel and ends with tribal drums. Yet, even at its most deconstructed, Varcharz's chaos is actually quite orderly; underneath it all, its splatters and streaks of sound are nearly as organized as Radical Connector's more song-based material was. Interestingly, both albums were recorded at the same time, and they work well together as the extreme yin and yang of Mouse on Mars' aesthetic. Varcharz shows that the duo is just as adamant about -- and adept at -- exploring the wilder fringes of their sound as they are honing it into forward-thinking pop.

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