Techno, electronica and house music can be tricky to judge. It’s a frantic breed of music that throws aside actual instruments in favor of an electronic soundboard. Where once existed guitars, now comes synth.
In this genre, a song works or it doesn’t. It’s as simple as the ear taking in a series of beats and bumps in just the right way. Joel Zimmerman, better known as the mouse-head adorned deadmau5, knows the tricks. The Toronto-based producer is back with his sixth full-length album, > album title goes here <, and he hasn’t forgotten how to play.
Never lacking in beats, > album title goes here < thrives on a combination of vocal-intensive tracks and beat-fueled mixes. “Superliminal,” the album’s opening track, is heavily reminiscent of For Lack of a Better Name’s “FML.” Like the previous entry, “Superliminal” spends most of its time ramping listeners up for the album. It feels weak in comparison to the album’s heavy hitters, but does a fine job setting the tone.
“Channel 42” and the previously released “There might be coffee” are > album title goes here <’s synth-heavy stars. Completely voiceless and undeniably catchy, these tracks are danceable tunes with attitude. Fresh off of “Superliminal, “Channel 42” is a punchy tune with a fast pace. “There might be coffee” is more of a steady climb. Clocking in at over eight minutes, it’s one of the album’s more interesting songs. While it slowly twists and turns in true progressive style, it remains rooted to a central tune.
But the album’s real treasures are found in its vocalist-studded beats. “The Veldt” is a throwback to recently deceased Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. Fan and singer Chris James provided the track’s dreamy, shoegaze-style vocals. A call for vocals during a livestream resulted in the unexpected collaboration, and a dreamy, Daft Punkian track was born. “The Veldt” is the album’s slowest track, with James’ vocals crawling over Zimmerman’s beats in a way that is both mesmerizing and totally relaxing. It’s a hard jump to the album’s next vocal track, “Professional Griefers.” Loaded with the frantic vocals of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, it’s a track that bounds between perfectly pumpable to ear-grating. There’s no doubting the song’s energy, which dials the notch up to 10, but it’s a love-or-hate kind of venture.
“Failbait,” the Cypress Hill track, is a fairly predictable one. While they rap about smoking weed (so high, so high, so high), the beats keep rolling. In terms of creative direction, it’s exactly what you’d expect. The track isn’t bad if you’re a fan of hip-hop, but it’s a weak link for > album title goes here <. Finishing out strong is Imogen Heap, with “Telemiscommunications,” a slow, somber track that drains the album’s frenetic energy like pus from an infected wound. > album goes here < ends so softly and subtly that you might at first believe it’s only taking a pause. When you realize it’s truly over, it’s a somber discovery.
> album goes here < is nothing short of infectious. With one taste you’ll crave more, until every song is frantically thumping through your head at all hours of the night. Armed with a collection of adrenaline-pumping beats and diverse vocal appearances, it’s a musical force that continues to establish Zimmerman’s place among the house music greats.