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Deadmau5: "For lack of a better Name"

img  Tobias

Most people won't get to the end of this record. Many won't even touch this album at all. Over the past five years, Joel Zimmermann's Deadmau5-persona has turned into the single-most controversial character of the electronic dance scene. It has taken years for him to go from remixing fellow-Canadian Industrial band Orgy to dominating the beatport charts. And yet, to his critics, he is still an artificial phenomenon. His ability to rock a party is unquestioned, yet his performances are supposedly wanting in personal involvement.  His roots are in the underground, but he is said to lack roots in the community. His success is either down to his superb skills or nothing but a marketing ploy. His productions are both revered and reviled for their perfection. He's a massive talent, he's a massive tool. He's unique, he's uniform. He's in, he's out. And yet, „For lack of a better Name“ doesn't feel like a cooly calculated move.

There is, at least on paper, a lot to be enjoyed for fans of the most diverse genres here: Techno (the electrifying electrofunkiness of „Moar Ghosts 'n' Stuf“), HipHop (groovy Guitar-lick-orgy „Hi Friend!“), Minimal (the dark, sexy tunnel-vision of „Bot“) as well as Trance („The 16th Hour“). Chopin gets theme-checked, a haunting passage of midnight Piano and ghostly Flute breaks up the anthemic romp of „Soma“ and sequences of carefully developed musicality take turns with the beguiling physical hypnosis of mantra-like repetitions. Zimmermann's production is crisp and crystalline, with both an ear for a powerful subcutaneous punch and a penchant for transparency, which brings out the emphatic layer of his melodies as well as the emotional depth of his textures. The neo-retro analogue basses sound especially monumental, shredding their way through clockwork-like percussion patterns quoting anything from Bossa to Ballearic Beats.

Perhaps this is exactly where the problem lies. Compared to other figureheads of the scene, Deadmau5 is not particularly interested in creating sonically seclusive, atmospherically cohesive entities. If his gigs blur the line between a live performance and a DJ set, then his full-lengths break down the barrier between a DJ set and the traditional album format. „For lack of a better Name“ is all about getting from point a to point b in a stimulating way. It is about seamless segues, fearless transitions, surprising twists. Most of all, it is about flow. As radical as some of the stylistic contrasts may be, the  record moves organically from one section to the next. Some of the tracks are making use of the same rhythmic foundation, as though Zimmermann were placing two different pieces on top of each other, remixing himself in the moment of creation. And like a Shakespearean tragedy, everything is headed towards a climactic finale, with the two last pieces goggling up a full twenty minutes.

It is only with the closing „Strobe“, however, that Deadmau5 truly delivers the unifying statement which binds the entire trip together. A heartbreaking theme, circling round its own axis like a loop of slowed-down 60s minimalism, opens the composition with tranquil Ambient tenderness. Deep string-swells provide harmonic grounding, a Piano and a Violin section mirror the Leitmotif with romantic fervour as the music seems poised for a gradual descent into the Chill-Out room. Against all odds, however, the melody shifts from the Vibraphone to digital Sequencer, speeds up and takes on thickness, resonance and sonority. At around the five minute mark, „Strobe“ starts from scratch again, this time as an overwhelming concoction of sweet pulsation and intoxicating organ lines, sounding out the journey in emphatic cycles of harmony and elation.

This unashamed game of confounding and pleasing expectations is bound not to please everybody. But if you're going to give  „For lack of a better Name“ the benefit of the doubt, you need to listen to it from beginning until the end.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Deadmau5
Homepage: Ultra Records

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