There are few things in the world of live electronic music more awesome than Deadmau5 and his foam mouse head, but what has helped him achieve temporary longevity in the music industry has been the strength of his original productions.
Both his debut album, Random Album Title (2008), and his sophomore effort, For Lack of a Better Name (2009), were critically acclaimed and beloved by his devoted following, and nothing less than the same pulsating, heart-pounding beats were expected out of 4×4=12, his newest release.
The album leads off with ‘Some Chords’, a fun and climatic chord progression that is reminiscent of the house DJ’s older work, crossing elegant and musical melodies with the same spastic synths that mau5 loyalists have always embraced. This tune sets a fantastic tone for the record, exciting the eardrums without stealing too much of the spotlight.
‘Some Chords’ is followed by the highly touted ‘Sofi Needs a Ladder’, featuring vocals from Sofia Toufa (current girlfriend of former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee), and a compilation of non-melodic synths, sirens, and heavy drums. ‘Sofi’s darkness and lack of musicality becomes repetitive and uninteresting (Toufa’s vocals become annoying by 3:00 or so), and in the following tracks, it seems as if the world’s most popular DJ is trying too hard to diversify his skill set, instead of leaning on his bread and butter.
Much of the album has a very generic feel to it, sounding more like a house mix from a solid club DJ than a studio composition from a world famous producer. Deadmau5’s signature pulsating, climax-building synths rarely appear, replaced mostly by minimalistic drum sequences and a variety of spacey, ambient sounds.
The album still contains several highlights, which carry enough water to banish all talk of a third album slump. ‘Animal Rights’, a collaboration with the fellow Ultra Records artist and widely popular Wolfgang Gartner, steals the show with a funky clavinet loop, and ‘Raise Your Weapon’ blends elegant lyrics from vocalist Greta Svabo Bech with a solid dose of the seldom-used, signature mau5 synths. He even throws in a heavy dubstep interlude to close out the track, which showcases his diversity much better than all of the new house/electro tricks scattered throughout the album.
It would take a disastrous production to tarnish the name that has captivated audiences all over the world, and 4×4=12 is not that. Deadmau5 (born Joel Zimmerman) still shows his uncanny ability to create music that can turn any situation into a fist-pumping party, as well as leaning harder on guest vocalists to really give his mixes a strong finishing touch.
No electro-fanatic should miss out on 4×4=12, but don’t expect it to surpass the success of his previous works. The only thing that we can expect is to keep hearing the name Deadmau5 – because his glowing mouse ears aren’t going anywhere but further into the mainstream anytime soon.
Written by A.J. Heindel.