So here’s a question: does anyone in the room remember how many years it has been since Mouse On Mars last put out a new album? Have you stopped to think that with this new album Mouse On Mars is, in fact, breaking a period of silence that has lasted nearly six years (specifically, since their incursion into the Ipecac label with “Varcharz”)? The truth is that until I read the promotional release, I hadn’t really noticed such an extreme dearth of releases. That is good. Probably because Mouse On Mars are already indelibly etched into the collective imagination of all of those who started to like electronic abstractions in the 90s. Surely – with ten studio albums on the market - Mouse On Mars no longer need a new release to enter into the realms of what is “in” and what isn’t. The German project is like a very close friend. The group from Cologne is like that childhood friend whom you don’t need to call every day to feel close to in spirit. Mouse On Mars, like other untouchables such as Autechre, form a part of the b-boy substrate of the most disjointed electronic music on this side of the ocean.
Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma form a part of that first batch of European beatmakers who merged hip hop with their very particular sound. Those legendary mid-90s came around and something had to be done to get the most serious electronic music - or that most interested in the concept of lasting - out of the purely club context where it seemed predestined to disintegrate in the pursuit of novelty. Funk was wasting away, dying of dehydration in a sea of nuts and bolts that justified the function of the experienced craftsman who seemed to be trying to live up to the motto: “let’s deconstruct whatever they put in front of us … to construct a new paradigm”. Theirs was a new way of doing things that started to appear in specialised magazines not necessarily focused on electronic music, which also started to receive albums like “Vulvaland” with open arms. It was published in 1994 on the label Too Pure (also featuring PJ Harvey, Stereolab and Laika) – which didn’t exactly stand out for the orthodoxy of its beats and bytes: it was like the indie label that was friends with the first clubbers. Mouse on Mars were making their way on the scene in Cologne, where they have always gone against the flow, showing themselves to be skilful producers who demonstrated that the whole was worth more than the singularity of its parts. They played at breaking the logic of the rhythm with breakbeats that appeared to be whimsical in the mind of that consumer (note that I say consumer: some music is made to buy and other music is made to listen to) who wasn’t used to listening to electronic music broken down, beaten up, and chewed up even before the listener pressed “play”. This creative strategy has been a lifesaver for the two Germans to defend themselves from the blows of the public as the years pass.
From the very title, “Parastrophics” suggests disaster. But the bad omens go no further than this new wonderful title (whose creators, all told, also created the work). With this new album, followers of St. Werner and Toma can breathe easy: it’s a new notch in both of their belts. It’s a new and suggestive work that doesn’t connect with any current in vogue. It doesn’t show anything new, nor does it have any bloody need to. It would be unfair to ask Mouse On Mars for innovation at this stage in their career—that’s for those who come behind them. Asking for innovation from the same source all of the time is something very reactionary that doesn’t suit the Germans. This is an album very much in tune with the couple’s free spirit, joining forces this time with Modeselektor, after having recruited them for their label Monkeytown. It’s a naughty, playful album, in which I would even say that there is a certain nod to the current sound. Modeselektor is to be congratulated because, despite being in the spotlight and a fixture at events and festivals where quantity wins out over nuance filled quality, they have made their own label an enclosed territory with an air of the cold hard present moment. Thanks to them, this year we have a ration of mice from Mars – and that’s something to be truly thankful for.