deadmau5′s >album title goes here< brings attention back where it belongs: the music
Button-pushing? We can’t help but cringe whenever we hear the phrase.
The ever-outspoken deadmau5 spent his summer defending and clarifying comments he made to Rolling Stone as the magazine’s first EDM cover star – a colossal honor, no doubt, but also an almost impossibly heavy cross to bear. The task of representing not only his music but the entire dance landscape to a largely uneducated audience put mau5 in an unwinnable situation; his attempt to differentiate himself and also explain the live EDM experience was reduced to a buzzword, a term that minimized dance producers, DJs and fans alike. Sure, the story brought deadmau5 (née Joel Zimmerman) unprecedented levels of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. The ordeal flattened him from a multi-dimensional, extremely complex, uniquely opinionated artist and person into an easy target.
In a Tumblr post that predated the Rolling Stone saga, Zimmerman explained that, as an artist, “you need to make a world” for your fans. “What you need,” he wrote, “is a fuckin’ theme park… and you AND your music are the theme. You want people to come to your theme park and feel like they’re a part of this world of yours.” Equally important, he added, is to “get out there and immerse yourself in the world you created… go jump on a few rides with your fans.”
For deadmau5, all of this translates into spectacular engagement with listeners, from posting works-in-progress on SoundCloud to live-streaming the process of creating tracks. His latest LP, >album title goes here<, features numerous songs heard before in one form or another, but only because deadmau5 opened the gates to his world and welcomed his fans into the process.
Case in point: In March, mau5 was live-streaming while creating a track based on Ray Bradbury’s short story The Veldt. A fan named Chris James read the story, absorbed the simultaneously utopian and dystopian tale, and recorded original vocals over the hypnotic instrumental deadmau5 had posted to SoundCloud. Taken by James’ vocals, which he said “completely complement the story and the mood,” Zimmerman decided to use them on the official release of “The Veldt.” Other tracks from >album title goes here<, including the blissful, string-laden “There Might Be Coffee” and the nearly nine-minute grind of “Fn Pig,” appeared on SoundCloud long before the album was even announced.
This isn’t an album for listeners who want to hop on and off one roller coaster, to experience a quick build-up and exhilarating drop, as Zimmerman’s analogy would have it. Rather, the album rewards fans who allow it to be an immersive experience, a full day at the theme park.
>album title goes here< may not have been mixed like 4×4=12, mau5’s last LP, but tracks flow into another and create a discernable arc. The album begins with the synth shocks and shaky reverb of “Superliminal,” leading nicely into the Wolfgang Gartner collaboration “Channel 42. “The Veldt” and “Fn Pig” build to the LP’s energetic peak, “Professional Griefers.” The track is this album’s “Sofi Needs A Ladder,” with its rock-infused strut and aggressive edge; however, mau5 trades Sofi’s rough, sexy vocals for Way’s scream-cum-chant and emotional desperation.
After “Griefers” and the funky, video game-esque “Maths,” mau5 changes gears, slowly dropping the overall tempo and going for a more subdued angle. “Closer” cleverly centers around the same five-note sequence the scientists in Close Encounters of the Third Kind used to communicate with alien visitors. By the time the listener gets to “Sleepless,” the album’s third-to-last track, Zimmerman has ventured into new territory: a slowed-down, trip-hop groove that evokes Portishead or Massive Attack. It’s a perfect connection between the songs that came before and the final two, “Failbait” and “Telemiscommunications,” which feature Cypress Hill and Imogen Heap respectively. Somehow, Cypress Hill’s verses don’t feel out of place on the record, owing largely to the song’s formidable low-end. “Telemiscommunications” keeps things simple, placing Imgen Heap’s vocals front and center over a haunting piano melody, in a similar vein as “Raise Your Weapon.”
In the wake of the Rolling Stone controversy, deadmau5 tried to explain his side of the story in a Tumblr entry called “we all press play.” Zimmerman wrote, “My ‘skills’… shine where [they need] to shine… in the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases.” When it comes to this particular release, >album title goes here<, he couldn’t be more right. The tracks are impeccably produced and detailed, the kind of music that always leaves something to discover on future listens. What’s more, >album title goes here< offers the experience every deadmau5 fan craves: a guided tour through his complex, brilliant mind.