Review Summary: Dodgy math equations aside, Deadmau5 has managed to work out the answer for continued success, but it would seem that there is more than one answer and he might have just picked the wrong one.
There's something about Joel Zimmerman that just really irks me. Giving credit where credit's due, the man knows how to write a catchy beat, but they're all just so deceptively simple yet infuriatingly catchy that I just want to grab him and shake him around a little bit for being so damn good at what almost seems like the easiest of tasks. It's no understatement to say that it takes very little to please the house crowd; give them a steady beat and throw a few bells and whistles to accompany the apparently faulty lighting system and you're generally away flying. And even though Joel has firmly ensconced himself in his mau5 alter ego he doesn't hide behind any pretense or subtlety, there's nothing to peel back, no dissection required with his music. Everything's all out in the open for show, presented as is, wholesale and on display. There's no romanticized images of European landscapes to signify his isolation from his craft, no tall tales presented that bear no resemblance to his ethos or to maximize sales potential and word of mouth press – everything about his music and his art has always expressed one simple thing: this is me (and my giant head), and this is what I do.
Returning to my troubling conundrum for a moment, its no real surprise just how high Zimmerman's star has risen in the last year or two. His music has evolved out of the almost deep house leaning mindset felt on Random Album Title
into the more mainstream inspired fare that conquered the first selection of tracks on his half and half release, For Lack Of A Better Name
. It was a change that came as no real shock either, as shades of radio posturing and clambering had been felt for a while now, but it almost felt like Joel had been holding back, almost a little reluctant to fully step into the lights that were trying to pin point him in the dark. To a degree, that seemingly nervous nature can be felt here in 4x4=12
, as he still continues to ride that fine line between more club fared bass riots and radio dominance. It manages to create interesting parallels, like the immense distance between electro clash number 'Sofi Needs A Ladder' (complete with full antagonistic vocal delivery) and the throwback of finale 'Everything Before', which somehow conjures to mind images of driving down a monolithic freeway with the top down, eyes fixed on the fast approaching neon city, alive and in full swing, moving to the steady pulse of the beat; sort of a quirky 80's pastiche, like if Miami Vice swapped pastels for neon.
Truth be told, the majority of 4x4=12
plays out as nothing more than the definitive sequel to For Lack Of A Better Name
, just on steroids and a little undecided on where its true intentions lie (more on this in a bit). Opener 'Some Chords' plays out as a straight continuation of the slow building fare from one year prior, just a little more jazzed up and full to the brim with inventiveness and ingenuity. There's a kind of expectant glee to be found in its run time, its initial build up reminiscent of a sunrise before it finds its feet and goes for full sensory overload. Honestly, its the quintessential album opener for this kind of stuff, anthemic and ripe with dancefloor epiphany. It does however end up setting the bar a tad too high, a marker that Sofia Toufa's first contribution doesn't quite manage to meet. Its by no means a bad track in the slightest, but its abrasiveness and bass heavy approach is in stark contrast to Zimmerman's previous female fronted numbers, namely 'I Remember'; though Kaskade's heavy melancholic hand was amazingly evident in the mix. 'A City In Florida' and 'Bad Selection' keeps the party moving in high fashion however; both numbers are high in octane and impressive in spectacle, with the former flirting with a quirky breaks fetish. Its a pummeling and, at times, stifling number, heavy on the ears and the feet, a track that races through its ideas, upping the ante at every turn, coiling in before springing out sporting improved wares and colors.
Zimmerman and Wolfgang Gartner's much heralded joint effort 'Animal Rights' is, surprisingly, an unexpected bone of contention I have with this album; in all honesty I expected more than what's presented. A kind of descent into Daft Punk inspired banality gives way to..... nothing overly spectacular. The track holds a hook big enough for the both of them to hang their hats comfortably, but its a hook that's overly cheesy and glorified, its simply too pronounced that it ends up sticking out like a sore thumb when stacked up against the more underlying tones that make up the majority of the album. 'Raise Your Weapon' plays out like a female accompanied Deeadmau5 track should; its gentle, almost fragile at times, reflective and hypnotizing.....well, that is until the dubstep kicks in. Yes, you read that correctly, Deadmau5 for all intents and purposes has decided to branch out into the ever popular world of dubstep. Borrowing from his fellow Canadian dub steppers Joel has gone for the more sonic boom end of the spectrum – and it just doesn't really work. That's not to say that Deadmau5 has tread too far and out of his depth, because he gets the job done to a reasonable degree, but stacked over Picture Brook's Greta Bech's soothing and achingly broken vocals, well they just don't gel at all. The music's just too bass heavy and volatile to justify throwing it into the mix halfway through the dreamlike nature of the track. They do however work with Sofia's more antagonistic tones in 'One Trick Pony', the only problem there is that the track is just, for lack of a better word, boring. Its 'Sofi Needs A Ladder' slowed down, grungy and wild; its destructive yet flamboyant, but Sofi just ends up lost in the noise, she just can't quite muster up enough energy and charisma to carry the track and make it her own.
Individual analysis aside, Deadmau5 has done it again, well almost. He's burrowed into his collection of night time wonders and held on to what's gone down well the most – namely the more hyper intense and high end selection of his works. So in other words, what the clubs want and have asked for. He's dropped the minimal entirely, which sadly became an integral part of his works, now (apparently) gone for good. He's upped the ante at the dance end though, almost as a reciprocation act perhaps as 'Sofi Needs A Ladder' and 'A City In Florida' plumb new depths in aural intensity and add a new facet to Joel's vibrant palette. In fact the album never really lets up, save for the interlude to 'Raise Your Weapon'; its a tour de force of dance club extremities and is an obvious example of what Deadmau5 can do and shows why he's on the tip of everyone's tongue lately. 4x4=12
will raise the word of mouth traffic ten fold simply because he's about to introduce a whole new crowd to his scene (a good thing) because he's seemingly dumbed everything down to appeal to a broader spectrum (this one's not so good). There's enough left over from his past ventures to ensure that the loyally devout aren't going to be entirely alienated, and the new vibe has actually added dizzying layers of excitement to the fold, but it seems as if the mau5 has finally decided to stop catering just for himself and opened the doors and invited everyone in. Dodgy math equations aside, Joel has still managed to work out the answer for continued success, but it would seem that there is more than one answer and he might have just picked the wrong one. But starting off on the wrong foot probably wasn't a smart move, but he still managed to get it half right. And lets face it, new Deadmau5 is better than nothing at all.