From his first official splash onto the music scene in 2006 as part of the duo B.S.O.D. (“blue screen of death”) with Nine Inch Nails producer Steve Duda, to his explosive album 4×4=12, which spent over 100 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 and solidified him as a worldwide player, Joel Zimmerman has had a hand in redefining, or at least slapping a fresh new multicolour coat of paint on what the masses have come to know as “electronic music”.
deadmau5’s latest effort, which bears the snicker-worthy title of > album title goes here <, is his sixth full-length, and showcases the many different maus-eared hats this man can wear. The first track “Superliminal” gives you about five seconds to ease in before a base of thick keyboard stabs and waw-ing bass wobbles is built. Layers of treble-y keys, piston-beats and drum flourishes stack on top and lead to an expanse of deep, echoed synth that starts to pull you somewhere… that is, until the keyboard stabs you in the grey matter again and you’re back at square one. The deceivingly yet aptly titled “Superliminal” is a fine example of what Zimmerman excels at – however simple and basic a song appears to be on the surface, there is a craftsmanship and attention to nuance present that makes it undeniably deadmau5.
The second track “Channel 42” (featuring Wolfgang Gartner) throws a bit of melody at you with its cascading synths, but the heavy dance boom maintains the power introduced in “Superliminal”. The synth breaks are satisfying, just as much for themselves as for the fact that they lead to the inevitable return of the Beat.
“The Veldt”, which takes its title from a Ray Bradbury short story about the dangers of becoming too reliant upon technology, has an interesting story behind it. In March 2012, Zimmerman created the track live on the internet in a 22-hour recording marathon and invited the world to watch. One fan, singer Chris James, uploaded an accompanying vocal track to Soundcloud which Zimmerman ate up and ended up using for the song. Famed author Ray Bradbury passed away June 5, 2012. The Veldt EP was released on June 24, 2012. If there has been a more peculiar, timelier musical eulogy than this, I know not of it. Rest in peace, sir.
Zimmerman’s latest is a well-paced, meticulously produced slab of strong, high-energy electronic music. His mixes of rough and sweet are as solid as ever, as is the case with the twinkling keys and dirty, Daft Punk-esque beat of “Fn Pig”. The frustrating foreplay progression of “Take Care of the Proper Paperwork” is an exercise in patience and pleasure-delaying; it is only made sweeter by the fact that the payoff never comes. Despite the sparse use of vocals on the album, they are used appropriately; (My Chemical Romance’s) Gerard Way’s vocals in the first, sweat-soaked single “Professional Griefers” heighten the frenzy of the track (as Sofia Toufa’s bratty vocal did on 4×4=12’s “Sofi Needs a Ladder”), and Imogen Heap’s otherworldly sweetness colours album closer “Telemiscommunications” beautifully.
“Sleepless”, in its smooth, unassuming approach, is putting up a remarkable fight to become my favourite on this album. One of the shortest tracks on the album (4:07), it is a smoky, silky little number whose funky bass-line and piano make me wish it was the longest; a deep-breathing stargazer, to say the least. “Standing outside the chalk outline / Beside ourselves in time / The only thing I want is the last thing I need / Awake and sleepless as stars shine.”
There is a little bit of everything in deadmau5’s latest creation – plenty of turbulent highs, just enough soothing valleys, a healthy dose of trance/dance-inducing forays, a dab of grit, a pinch of pop, all of which come together on > album title goes here < to serve as one more praise-worthy notch on Joel Zimmerman’s already impressive musical belt.
deadmau5 will be headlining the Contact Winter Music Festival on Wednesday, December 26th at BC Place. The Blueprint Events and Live Nation event will also feature Unhooked, Nero, Alesso, Chris Lake and Lazy Rich. You can buy tickets here.