Mouse On Mars are a strange act. On the one hand, this is electronic
music, and the musicians are german. The image that statement
calls to mind is of some thin pale guys in black turtlenecks
and wire-rimmed glasses hanging out around a bunch of keyboards
And that's somewhat true. Except that they also have a drummer,
who sings sometimes. His name is Dodo Nkishi, which sounds kind
of Japanese to me. So Mouse On Mars are an electronic act with
a drummer/vocalist. That's a little different.
And i think it shows, upholding my theory that "organic" drums
are infinitely more interesting than anything a machine can
create. Organic beats are crisp and rich and "alive" sounding,
whereas i can usually peg the cold beats of a drum machine right
off. The drums here are organic, and that's what makes this
one of the better electronica albums that i have heard in quite
Rather than programming beats, Mouse On Mars record their drummer
and then feed his work through their computers. This makes the
music really breathe, which is something that a lot of electronic
music doesn't do. (And i suspect that in some cases, the "roboticness"
of electronic music is intentional.)
Aside from the organic feel of the music, another thing that
i find interesting about this disc is that it was made for vinyl.
No really -- it even has clearly demarked sides as reflected
in the pattern of the songs. The pattern is start with harsher
beat driven song with vocals, then go into a mostly instrumental
interlude that still is pretty beat driven, then a vocal piece,
then abstract sound collages. The album repeats itself in this
I find that very odd. Usually an album is one "thing", and
with the prevalence of CD's anymore it flows as one organic
whole from start to finsih. Placing such an album on two sides
of a vinyl disc would disrupt the flow. But in the case of Idiology
having the album as one straight-through CD rather than a record
you have to flip disrupts the flow. What were Mouse On Mars
That said, let's examine the songs in the pattern. Each side
starts off with an intense song of distrorted vocals and crunchy
beats. On side A it is Actionist Respoke, while on side
B it is the otherworldly reggae of Doit. Doit
sounds like the music the space rastas would listen to in their
satellite home in William Gibson's Neuromancer.
It's got that head-bopping beat, and horns, and distorted vocals,
and is a really good fast fun tune.
These songs fade into something a little less frenetic. Something
slightly calmer but still with a really good beat. On side A
it is Subsequence, while side B has both First: Break,
and To Introduce. These are good songs to listen to when
you want something a little energetic, but not too much so.
After the intensity of those songs, Mouse On Mars bring things
down with a slower vocal piece. On side A it is Presence,
which has a great melody and wonderful vocals. This is one of
the real standout tracks on the album. The equivalent on side
B is my least favorite track on the album: a less than two minute
long purely vocal piece called Unity Concepts. Someone
speaking english with a sharp german accent talks for a while
about "The One", as if giving a lecture on Liebnizian monadism.
Mouse On Mars take this lecture, chop it up, and add subtle
echo and processing effects. It's not bad, just dull.
Ah, but after the vocal interludes are done both sides of Idiology
get really good. The remaining tracks are abstract sound collages,
totally outside the realm of dance music, made up of sampled
strings and piano and horns. These are all really good songs,
really interesting to listen to. I especially like side A's
The Ilkling, with it's luscious string sweeps and happy
Another real winner is Fantastical Analysis, which sounds
like what all of those post-rock bands who play with electronica
really want to be doing. Mouse On Mars take a light guitar melody
(apparently they have a guitarist in the band as well), add
keyboard drones, some sampled beats, a trilling piano, and eventually
layer strings and little beeps and bloops on top. The song just
builds and builds, and does so really nicely.
On the whole i am really impressed with this album. Mouse On
Mars manage to take the cut-and-paste-while-distorting mentality
of contemporary electronica and combine it with real songcrafting
to create something beautiful. I think that a wide range of
people might be able to find something to listen to here: the
album should appeal to electronica fans AND post-rock fans (in
other words, it straddles the two genres that i enjoy most).
I really can't recommend it enough. If you like either of those
two genres, check this out.