Mouse On Mars, Parastrophics

Jason Randall Smith

Mouse On Mars, Parastrophics [Monkeytown]

After almost 20 years of making music together as Mouse On Mars, Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner still find themselves in the fortunate position of sounding like no one else in electronic music. They have managed to mutate and evolve as a duo, staying several steps ahead of their peers and the constantly changing musical climate as well. Parastrophics finds the duo refreshed and renewed after a six-year gap between albums, sounding every bit as playful and excited now as they have in years past. You can hear it in the percolated percussion of “The Beach Stop,” with hushed vocal musings being submerged under a tidal wave of sonic sputters. “Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted” is a curious blend of amplified static electricity and endless ping-pong matches, more centered in noise than melody while still finding an aural sweet spot.

It's always tempting to talk about their work in the sense of being whimsical or humorous, but Mouse On Mars never shied away from the more aggressive side of electronica. Even within the broad strokes of synth-pop found on “Metrotopy,” the snare drum hits sound like self-contained explosions that are rigged to fall in line with the tempo. Longtime collaborator Dodo Nkishi comes along for the ride, spouting Dadaist phrases with the wide-eyed joy of a Dr. Seuss classic, then cut up and splattered across the mix in Jackson Pollock fashion. He reappears on the dark electro bounce of “They Know Your Name,” his vocal contributions stretched and contorted into cartoon-like expressions.

While having a sound that is distinctly Mouse On Mars, part of the duo's charm has always been to take what already exists and make it their own. Funk never sounds as simultaneously meaty and rubbery as it does when it's in their hands. “Syncropticians” captures this fact perfectly, displaying staggered snaps and jittery keyboard patterns over a bed of warm chords. “Gearknot Cherry” picks up on this nervous energy and refines it into shoulder-hunching knocks underneath alien harps and chunky bass accompaniment.

Parastrophics is unbridled enthusiasm from beginning to end, culminating in the acid squelch insanity that is “Seaqz,” the album's closer. Mashing up the dance M.O.M. style, Toma and St. Werner have thrown down the gauntlet again, turning in an album that speaks directly to today's electronic music environment while glancing at it occasionally from a rearview mirror.

 
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