This album, this new deadmau5 album, it’s everything he made it out to be. while (1<2) is the much anticipated album from that unique controversial deadmau5 character (real name Joel Zimmerman); it has been unleashed onto the world, and here is what I have to say about it.
I finally hear the real mau5, the complete mau5. He’s a dark character with unparalleled production talent, but he also embraces those positive sentiments we find in life. In this album, we have a complete human being, an artist who sonically explores the full spectrum of the human condition and corresponding emotions. Indisputably, he has matured. This is an artist making the music he wants to define himself by.
Beyond the marketing, beyond the twitter beefs and feuds, we have received a work of art that is innovative in its dual mix composition, wherein the intention is that you can and should loop the album together by the two continuous mixes. From this perspective, this is how I will conduct my review, so let’s get into it and break it all down.
The first mix is arguably divided into two sections, organically breaking at Creep. Thematically, anxiety abounds throughout where deadmau5 journeys to dark territory, from the foreboding struggle with identity in the adept and subtle Ice Age remix, to the ever so creepy voice sample in Terrors in My Head. Overall it feels we are moving through a dream, walking on the edge of falling into full blown nightmare. The flow of this first mix is great. Avaritia and Coelacanth I and the higher energy tracks of My Pet Coelacanth and Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer are effective bridges between the more pensive tracks. Phantoms Can’t Hang is a notable song in of itself, as it epitomizes deadmau5’s maturity as a producer. He maintains his signature sound, but elevates it to an epically beautiful level. When I experienced this song live at HARD Day of the Dead, I assure you, it was quite special. It was both an amazing set and it was the first instance of deadmau5 debuting this new direction for his material. Many brutally criticized this departure, but let’s leave those critics behind, Phantoms Can’t Hang strikes a chord inspiring deep thoughts, invoking one to savor the moment.
The second continuous mix is more of a meditation, no surprise then this is where we encounter his aptly titled A Moment to Myself. Generally speaking, there is a prominent downtempo vein throughout, almost feels reminiscent of Massive Attack at points. As deadmau5 is considered a definitive producer in the progressive house genre, this second loop of the album is consistent with his prior progressive successes on singles, but this time he is applying that skill on a larger scale; it is truly a progressive selection of songs that flow together and elevate throughout.
The second mix is a movement from dark to light, from negative to positive. Towards the conclusion, deadmau5 brings it all home and gives the album a happy ending. Pets, by god, the synths inspire images of kittens playing and all the positive emotions from such an innocent and joyful sight. Pets summed up simply is a sunrise. Seeya appropriately says goodbye, and it is by far the most surprising of deadmau5’s album, I did not expect the man to get funky funky.
The underwhelming element of the album are the piano portions, many of which were already made known prior to the album's release. However, they are still coherent bringing the entire structure together. I was just hoping for a little bit more of a flourish or evolution in their form.
It is notable that every person who I have discussed this album with, devout mau5 fans and casual listeners alike, each person has a different favorite track. This is a testament that mau5 explores so much territory, and he dives deep to great effect. Personally, my favorites on the album are his remixes of How to Destroy Angels and Nine Inch Nails. These connected me to Joel Zimmerman as a personal glimpse into who has inspired him and how he has responded to that inspiration in kind. No better way to pay tribute than putting your own twist on your favorite tunes.
Will this album have a huge, lasting impact on electronic music in general? It is a bold step in the right direction for electronic music producers. It is time to make true, thematically coherent albums, rather than bulk almost slammed together packages of singles. I am not saying deadmau5 is the first, nor will he be the last, but it is a sign that all producers need to start aspiring for something much more than a hit single. I am not sure if Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories inspired Joel, I highly doubt it as some of these songs have been in the works for a while, but I do think both albums are notable in that electronic music has entered a stage where it is about true, heartfelt, deep expression. Something is happening, and thank god the album format has returned.
Follow me on twitter @kirkthewilliams.