November 2, 2001

Ed's Underground

Print More

The German electronic duo Mouse on Mars have achieved a very delicate and very rare balance: they are both consistently inventive and consistently enjoyable to listen to. This balance has resulted in their most cohesive effort on this year’s Idiology.

The duo of Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner are masters at crafting unusual sounds. The critic-accepted phrase for their unique style seems to be “electronic flatulence,” and that’s as accurate a name as anybody’s likely to come up with for this crazed melange. Idiology finds the pair experimenting more than ever with live instrumentation (which they tinkered with to lesser effect on 2000’s Niun Niggung) and vocals (which they’ve never used before).

The album starts off with “Actionist Respoke,” a wild anthem with schizophrenic, fractured-beyond-recognition vocals over a propulsive dancehall rhythm of clangs and robot farts. The singing is only slightly more understandable on the upbeat “Doit,” which pairs short horn blasts with an industrial beat.

“Paradical” is a standout: an all-too-brief instrumental that features weird, vaguely Oriental clanging and a distorted guitar buzz with a diverse array of background melodies coming from such oddball sources as a sampled flute, a string section, and what sounds like a bird tweeting.

Another highlight is “Subsequence,” which starts as a typical MoM song before a classical piano melody cuts off the electronics for a solo, then joins the clicking beats and a jazzy horn for an extended, surprisingly live-sounding jam session. For most of this album, MoM’s true feat is making these laptop games sound like a live band playing on stage. Idiology is guaranteed to sound like nothing else in your collection — which may be bad, because once you’ve heard it, you’re bound to want more.

Archived article by