Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics

12 Mar

The Düsseldorf based avant-garde, post-techno duo of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma have been releasing music under the moniker Mouse on Mars for nigh two decades.  2012’s Parastrophics proves that Mouse on Mars, after six years of collective inactivity (there were a number of musical/production side projects in between), are sharp and still relevant.

Since 1994’s Vulvaland, Mouse on Mars has been an electronic chameleon of sorts.  MoM collaborated with The Fall’s Mark E. Smith in 2007 as Von Südenfed which calls to mind John Peel’s famous description of The Fall: “They are always different, they are always the same.”  The same could be said for Mouse on Mars whose latest album, Parastrophics, shows that St. Werner and Toma are constantly evolving as musicians but maintaining a distinctive sonic core at the same time.

Aside: Düsseldorf was home to both Kraftwerk and Neu!  Can formed only a few miles away in Cologne.  Mouse on Mars lists all three as influences.  It’s no wonder that MoM sound ahead of their time.  That local trio of influence combined with contemporary electronic osmosis explains why Parastrophics seems to span three plus decades of krautrock, techno, electronica, IDM and house.

“Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted” is the first ear-grabber on the album.  The humorous refrain: “Chordblocker…facebook’s a cock-blocker.  Frosted the flake if I cinnamon toasted crunch” loops over what sounds like a ping pong tournament in the middle of the Indy 500.  God knows what it has to do with cereal, but I ate it up.

Aside (again): Facebook is a cock-blocker.  When I wasn’t effectively blocking my own [self] in college, pictures of me wasted on the floor were.  Not to mention “facebook official” relationship statuses…

The energy continues straight through the jungle shuffle of “Metrotopy,” the snappy funk of “Wienuss” (which, on repeat, got me through a panic attack on the L train two weeks ago) to the album’s pinnacle: “They Know Your Name.”  At first it feels like a homage-paying, name-dropping track akin to Daft Punk’s “Teachers,” but then you realize that the names don’t matter and you’re dancing.  It’s the type of track that you test your car’s sound system with.

The one problem with Parastrophics is that it is front-heavy.  The first half of the album is a flexing electro-muscle that atrophies with weaker tracks like the spastic “Baku Hipster” and the pointless “Cricket.”  The album ends not with a bang but an “imwimper.”  It actually ends with “Seaqz,” but I couldn’t resist the hyper-corny Eliot pun.

Absolutely worth a listen.

Noteworthy Tracks: “Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted,” “Wienuss,” “They Know Your Name” and “Polaroyced”

Rating: ****

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