Deadmau5's eighth offering, W:/2016ALBUM/, is one of Joel Zimmerman's more focused works, relying on deep grooves that demand an extended listen. Named after the computer directory where he stored the tracks-in-progress, W:/2016ALBUM/ arrived two years after the atmospheric soundscape exercise of 2014's while(1<2). More life is injected into W:/ -- making it a more enjoyable listen -- but the experimental ethos remains. "Glish" sounds like a Kid A castoff dragged through a meat grinder, while "Whelk Then" is a Buddha-Bar lounge jam that is floating in the blackness of space. Exciting ideas pop up on nearly every song, but sometimes they go nowhere or show very little sign of progression. This makes W:/ a rewarding journey for the patient, but not as immediate for those looking for a 4x4=12 physical experience. The closest Zimmerman comes to those festival-sized bangers is "Imaginary Friends" and the relentlessly throbbing "Three Pound Chicken Wing." Instead, the uptempo songs toe the line of progressive house and trance, mostly avoiding the unsubtle and aggressive nature of mainstream 2010s EDM. Album opener "4ware" sparkles and "Deus Ex Machina" hypnotizes, while the disco space-funk of "Cat Thruster" thumps and throbs. "No Problem" is Zimmerman's take on the Daft Punk/Justice sound, while "Snowcone" finds him wandering into the dubby corners of trip-hop. Even though he later dismissed the album as slapdash and scattershot, Zimmerman nonetheless produced a worthwhile listen. Fans will appreciate the new directions and there's enough on W:/2016ALBUM/ to introduce curious new listeners to the mutable world of the mau5.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung