When you jump on stage with a big mouse mask and a suit on and you do the best electro-house live show the E’d up masses have witnessed in a long time, you run the risk that your more serious side, ie. your halo as a producer, will end up with more holes in it than a Gruyère cheese. In any case, if anything becomes obvious with “4x4=12”, it’s that Deadmau5 isn’t only a stage animal, he also stands his ground in the studio, from where he’s emerged with a third album on which, without being unfaithful to the hedonistic sounds of Ibeefa, he broadens his horizons a little bit –not much, but a liiiiittle bit.
Joel Zimmerman’s thing is no joke: the man has become a star like those who get the field rammed with people in the blink of an eye; a festival celebrity in one mouse-click, who entered the charts and still provokes massive migration every time a live appearance is announced. With an ever growing popularity and overwhelming control of the complex art of the dilated pupil, the Canadian has already showed, on his two previous efforts – “Random Album Title” and “For Lack Of A Better Name”–, that without being blessed with the composition skills of other producers he was capable of manufacturing hits of sweaty electro-house that sound like slot machines, spitting out coins after crying jackpot. “4x4=12” is walking the same path of dancefloor exploitation, although he goes a tiny bit further than before.
Of course, there is plenty of the trademark floor-filling stuff, it would be weird to hear a Deadmau5 record without the Ibiza cholesterol we all look for on his releases, but there are small discharges that aren’t so obvious and bring curious detours, causing sensations that aren’t so primitive. The electro-funked crunk with Croydon aromas and raps by Sofi Toufa on “One Trick Pony”; the progressive epic and psychedelica of “Atrium”; the dubstep ending and trip-hop sediment with trills by Greta Svabo Bech of “Raise Your Weapon”; the depressed pop with robot voice of “Sleeping Beauty Pills”: the Toronto producer moves around in those stylistic quagmires with more ease than expected. However, and although it’s a good thing he wants to avoid delivering another monochrome set of kick drums and climaxes, Zimmerman is clearly more comfortable on a flat field: the dancefloor remains his hunting ground and few can keep him from taking his prey. When he launches his EPO-fuelled basslines, maximises the E-fuelled euphoria and sets the BPM-controls to Ibiza, the guy is a god among men.
The epic electro-house of “Some Chords” –a killer hit that has become a bestseller on Beatport– is simply amazing: the best track on the record by far. The digital and obsessive hard-house of “A City In Florida” is hammering. On “Chtulhu Sleeps” he turns into Mr. Oizo –but with gold chains, a wife-beater shirt and diamond-encrusted teeth– to offer us the wildest climax of the year and, in the final minute, he revives the Redman sample – “the funk phenomena!”– that made Armand Van Helden famous. He also evokes early Daft Punk on the incredible “Animal Rights”, an electro-disco-funk stomper that is one of the best tributes to the Paris twosome we heard this year. Yes, the Deadmau5 I like most is that which stuffs me with effects, devastating bass drums, layers of auto-tuned sounds - massive anthems that make me whistle. Granted, when he wants to make you dance, he uses all the effects everybody already knows, elements exploited to the max by thousands of producers before him, but he does it with such skill that he seems to be playing in a different league altogether. They say that when there’s a shipwreck, the rats are the first to abandon ship, but Deadmau5 is a different class of rodent: he would turn the disaster into a party and make the people dance until the Mediterranean Sea swallows them. Óscar Broc
Deadmau5 - 4x4=12