Album Review of W:/2016ALBUM/ by Deadmau5.
Release Date: Dec 2, 2016
Record label: Kobalt
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Techno, Club/Dance, EDM
Electronic producer Deadmau5 retreated, Bon Iver-style, to write the bulk of his dense, thoughtful eighth album in the Canadian countryside. It's a fitting creation legend for the anti-star, a Twitter crank who openly hates the term "EDM," snarks at many of its professionals and prefers anonymity underneath a giant mouse head. While most of his fellow main-stage festival favorites continue to either churn out vocal-driven, vaguely house-inflected pop, or vocal-driven, vaguely trap-inflected pop, one of the music's most famous and visible stars has done neither.
Masked pop-techno producer Deadmau5 has long been as famous for online beefs with Madonna and Kanye as for his music. His Twitter trolling is frequently hilarious, even as it hints at the underlying persona of a man who’d be at his happiest shouting up at an ex’s window at 2am about how he never cared anyway. This first album on his own mau5trap label will struggle to redress the balance back towards the tunes.
In a series of tweets last month, EDM superstar Joel Zimmerman all but disowned his eighth album, calling it “rushed” and “slapped together”. “I don’t even like it,” he claimed, adding that he is only releasing it to pay the bills. There were two tracks he reserved praise for, however: Whelk Then, a strange experimental offering that wavers between bursts of clangy syncopation and the ASMR-y sound of dripping water; and Snowcone, which mixes plunderphonic aesthetics with a chunky trip-hop beat.
Toronto native Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) has never shied away from speaking his mind, and has always held himself to higher-than-most standards when it comes to music production, so when news broke last week that he had, in a series of tweets, effectively disowned his new album W:/2016ALBUM/ due to it being "so fucking rushed/slapped together," it wasn't shocking so much as disappointing. Did the slumped mau5head on the cover of W:/2016ALBUM/ suddenly suggest the end of the mau5 as we know it?Not quite. While the album is far from his best work (the disjointed opening track is a strong first clue), it still merits a listen.
There aren’t many electronic dance musicians more cantankerous than deadmau5. His beefs are legion, his tweetstorms legendary. And the scrawny, tattooed Torontonian’s self-loathing is nearly as famous as his short fuse. Sometimes, the self-deprecating potshots—making fun of his own costume, admitting that most EDM performances are pure pantomime—scan as refreshingly down-to-earth takes on an industry full of metastasized egos and virtually no self-awareness.
Who’d have thought, when Chris Morris and his gang thought of the Cake sketch in Brass Eye, they’d predict the future of music? But deadmau5 has done it. He’s been doing it for years, and to great success. W:/2016ALBUM is a throwaway series of club-dance-house nothings that carve migraines out of industrial electronics. ‘2448’ has the most gleefully offensive hammer to the head synth line since Robbie Williams’ ‘Rock DJ’, with that pounding, stiflingly offensive, one-note drone of trapped celebrity wind.