Techno, house, glitch and IDM are all genres whose artists take pride in being unconventional, dirty, avant-garde and sometimes unsettling — qualities that tend to mellow out a bit when artists surpass certain age milestones. However, with a career that spans more than 18 years, Mouse on Mars have earned their tenure while still managing to evoke the awed excitement reserved for the genre’s brightest up-and-comers. Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma comprise the dynamic duo and hail from Cologne, Germany, where they have been making bold electronic records since 1994. A six-year hiatus interrupted the flow after Varcharz, but the duo has returned with long-awaited album Parastrophics.
The first thing that struck me about Parastrophics is the degree to which Werner and Toma experiment with different sounds and styles. At any given time throughout all 13 tracks you’re equally likely to encounter a rogue buzz, bleep or reverberation thrown into the composition. This improvisation and general playfulness contribute to the mood of experimentation that ensures Parastrophics is always fresh and never boring. The beats maintain some central rhythmic threads, but constantly dance and meander on side tangents and diversions. A couple of my favorite tracks, “Wienuss” and “Imatch” do just that as their intricacy remunerates the listener for repeat spins.
Parastrophics will likely prove to be a foreign and challenging listen for those unaccustomed to maximalist electronic music. Thankfully, the album’s final track, “Seaqz,” stands as a litmus test for listeners unsure if they are willing to take a deep plunge into the meat of the album. The song covers a wide range of sounds and undulates between bleeps and a hard-hitting bass that would oblige most dancefloor crowds. Those who enjoy the anthem will likely feel right at home within the record’s more expansive and sometimes more colorful tunes. On the other hand, those who are turned off by “Seaqz” should probably better acclimate themselves in electronic landscapes before traversing the rockier terrain on the album.
Parastrophics deserves whatever praise it garners, but I would have a tough time defending the record as wholly innovative. The sounds are exciting and sharp throughout, but the disjointed efforts disrupt any sense of coherent vision. Still, what makes Parastrophics an interesting and rewarding listen is very much the duo behind the boards rather than the final product itself. Within the current sea of electronic artists that struggle to remain relevant after a single or two, Mouse on Mars have endured and painted their own career arc that spans a myriad of subgenres, styles, and moods. Parastrophics fits well within this larger whole and speaks to the listener from a perspective that has experienced it all. But even after a history of successes and failures, Mouse on Mars break from their older peers by continuing to take risks and experiment within the genres they’ve helped pioneer.
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Stream: Mouse On Mars – “Seaqz”