Deadmau5 Deadmau5>album title goes here
Even before becoming the first super-selling producer of the Beatport portal – which is the same as saying the first mp3 star of modern dance music – and also being acclaimed as the new poster boy of progressive house, Joel Zimmerman had already released four albums, all on mp3, of course. One was even an enormous container of 56 files, titled “Project 56”, which showed just how brutal this Canadian’s productive incontinence is, but without warning us of what was to come. Even when he released the album that really made him popular, “Random Album Title” (Ultra, 2008; licensed for Europe by Ministry of Sound), nothing warned us that his massive status would turn out in the long run to be comparable to that of Daft Punk or Tiësto, who were in general terms the two reference points that the mousy Deadmau5 was working with, although bastardised and adapted to his needs. Then came albums that were much coarser and less inspired, such as “For Lack Of A Better Name”, “4x4=12” and the dreadful “Deadmau5”, and without anyone suspecting it, he began to take over the entire rave spectrum in North America with an effective combination of highly polished high notes, monstrous bass-lines, and a set-up of lasers and LEDs. At the same time, rave culture flowered again in the United States, where today it is an idol for youth, and the controversial style called EDM crystallised. “Album Title Goes Here”, is, therefore, a crucial album because it is primed to be the “Homework” of its generation, the sum and summary of what dance music is today for the widest, most adolescent spectrum of worldwide clubbing. Whether it really is or not is another question.
It’s not the style that has changed in Deadmau5’s new album, but rather its projection. The cuts on “Album Title Goes Here”, which have been patiently marinated over dozens of live appearances in which Zimmerman has done what he always does – which is to say, put on his gigantic mouse head with shining eyes and, in his own words, “push buttons” – are the perfect definition of EDM cannon fodder. “Channel 42” has those monstrous bass-lines and comic bleeps, those breaks in rhythm that are followed by a hyperbolic crescendo - or Skrillex’s drop technique taken to the game of electrohouse - that work so well in massive crowds accompanied by chemical substances. “The Veldt” completes the image with gentle harmonic arpeggios that come from trance – the original version lasts 12 minutes, edited down to 8 and a half here, inspired by a story by science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died this year – finished off by a vocal collaboration from Chris James. The latter takes us into very familiar territory, that of commercial eurotrance, which may be pleasant for those frivolous moments of summer when done properly, but which always tarnishes the good name of dance music a little further when it is done in poor taste. “The Veldt” is in that middle ground, that “is it or isn’t it”, the edge of the knife, where Deadmau5 is always balancing himself. He’s a producer with a good nose, but with very bad taste in finishing off his tracks - one supposes that good taste doesn’t matter much to him when he takes a look at his bank account. So, “Album Title Goes Here” isn’t an LP intended to revolutionise EDM and raise its style to a new level, but rather it has been meticulously studied to maximise the euphoric effect and favour the status of each song as an anthem based on a dubious crossover.
For example, towards the end there’s a cut featuring Cypress Hill ( “Failbait”), in a vulgar rap song with a slightly protuberant bass-line and the outdated flow of the Los Angeles band: a coarse attempt to attract the hip hop audience to Deadmau5’s clumsy orgy of synthesizers. This is an incidental example - and it’s also an unnecessary song on the album, a poorly-placed mess that cuts into any sort of progression and rhythm -but “Professional Grifters” isn’t. There, the vocal collaboration comes from Gerard Way (singer for My Chemical Romance) and it logically pursues the electro + dubstep + hard rock effect typical of Skrillex, which is the new commercially successful formula. There is no subtlety here: a start that is theoretically delicate like that of “Fn Pig” (which sounds like when The Chemical Brothers get carried away with arpeggios à la “Star Guitar”), ends up being razed to the ground by a huge bass-line and a gummy beat, the same one that is prolonged on “Maths” and in the epic whistles and atomic crescendos of “Take Care Of The Properwork” (which is like taking Leftfield’s “Open Up” or Fluke’s “Atom Bomb” into the more chaotic 21st century).
Nevertheless, not everything is testosterone. “There Might Be Coffee” has a placid beginning that develops according to the more accepted formula of progressive house and that sounds ideal for John Digweed’s sessions when he DJs in some Asian country. Then there is “Closer”, which starts, of course, with the melody of communication with the aliens from “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” and “October”, melodic trance that is located in that imprecise place between Booka Shade and Armin Van Buuren. And just when the album is at its peak, it takes a nosedive (and badly) with the slow, broken beats of “Sleepless”, the Cypress Hill cameo, and a final collaboration with Imogen Heap that is not taken advantage of on “Telemiscommunications” - a sugary ambient ballad, when she could have been his Kirsty Hawshaw to make his own “It’s a Fine Day”.
Here, we can’t say that it’s a pity, or an opportunity that isn’t taken advantage of, because “Album Title Goes Here” wasn’t made to mark an aesthetic milestone, but rather a commercial one, and in this sense it’s a triumph: here there is material for raves with thousands of people, it will keep him at the heights of the EDM circuit for another year; festival organisers are already lining up outside his manager’s offices. But it is a sign of the creative anaemia suffered by this new mainstream dance, which still can’t suggest a single trace of evolution - it’s all SO 2001, in general - and which doesn’t even manage to leave a real hit in your memory. What has taken us from Daft Punk and Sasha to here is a sharp descent into the abyss, with the occasional branch to hold onto, but one that breaks when you least expect it.