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Album Review: deadmau5 – W:/2016ALBUM/

3 min read

Since his first studio album released just over ten years ago, Canadian-born Joel Zimmerman has advanced and engineered the rapid process of electronic dance music perhaps more so than any other conventional dance music musician. Melody spills from the core of his eighth studio record distinguishably titled W:/2016ALBUM/ in reference to a long-lasting trend of computer related nods in his spanning career. It returns, conceivably, full circle to his respective earlier, straight-forward and catchier environment – an artistically pleasant and futuristic 8-bit wonderland of shifting emotion and a trademarked passionate condition.

deadmau5 - W::2016ALBUM:The album breaks forward with 4ware; a rolling synth arpeggios and light keys before a distinct and thickened 4×4 beat generates an established and positive dance atmosphere. The progressive house music sound has earned Zimmerman a distinct signature noticeability, almost auteurist in its sound delivery. As a familiarity in the builds and crescendo unfold, transient shifts in memory align with a 1980’s John Carpenter satisfaction of sorts, holding close a contemporary vision of a dimmed dancefloor or huge pulsing festival space in mind. It is then that 2448 manages to spellbind the senses further, with a musicality both nostalgic and memorable. Channelling an explicit video-game influence like much of Joel’s back catalogue, the chord progression and synth leads work harmonious and clear with the only possible upset taking the shape of an unnecessary Skrillex style “drop” and ugly series of growling screeches. These grittier and abrasive sounding synth chords turn an otherwise potent memory into a skippable and general feeling. This soon dissipates with the arrival of dark techno thumper Deus Ex Machina – an amalgamation of sound reflective of a Juan Atkins x Four Tet and Recondite tangle. Planetary echoes and sharp oscillations transmit periodically over its six and a half minute discourse – projecting an alien like emotion underneath dark keys and a dangerous bass line story.

Joel has maintained a surprising fluctuation within the record’s visual and audible management. Cat Thruster employs a nuanced disco approach likened to work illustrated throughout Maurice Fulton’s BOOF alias, just as Glish manages to strike an Aphex Twin/Boards Of Canada connection all with a deadmau5 imagination overseeing the boundaries. Despite the heavier wordless tracks that comprise the record’s core, a wade through more ‘song-like’ territory is also achieved in true deadmau5 form. Let Go features the echoed serenade of male vocalist Grabbitz, amplifying the punchy club centred surge in both a short radio-friendly version and an extended 11-minute acid ride. Expectation aside, in terms of innovative reconciliation, no track better employs the experimentalist spirit deeper than the trippy grab of Whelk Then. Think of Jon Hopkins and film scorer Thomas Newman in the studio with an MPC 1000 at the helm. Glitchy creaks and effect bites scatter over earthy vibrations and cymbal snippets almost evil in delivery. It’s the drums in this, however, that penetrate the soul with a fancied discomfort and haunting fascination – warranting a complete indulgence and a justifiable and immediate re-listening.

Joel has brought it all to the table on this record though for its obvious achievements, the total aesthetic seems interrupted and submitted without any consideration of flow in mind – almost like a partial puzzle incomplete though the image is identifiable. W:/2016ALBUM/ may not be his best but it succeeds in showcasing what deadmau5 has perfected, and that’s catering to the music taste buds you never knew existed.