Lithops - "Rosa In A Light Speed Vessel" (Mound Magnet, Pt. 2: Elevations Above Sea Level)
Around 1999’s Niun Niggung, Mouse On Mars leapt a few rungs of the developmental ladder, replacing their steamy, soft-focus electronica and Kraut-pop with razor-sharp, hybrid motor-funk. A similar change overtook Lithops, the solo project of Mouse On Mars’s Jan St. Werner – goodbye to the gentle blips of Uni Umit, hello the scarifying electro-acoustics of Scrypt. If both Lithops and the mothership lost some of their otherworldly grace (I remember griping long and loud about Niun Niggung back in its day), the intervening years have clarified this stylistic gearshift, the tougher edges of Von Südenfed (Mouse On Mars’s project with the Fall’s Mark E Smith) or MOM’s Radical Connector rejoining dialectics and the dancefloor.
Mound Magnet Pt. 2: Elevations Above Sea Level continues down that merry trail. Indeed, it’s one of the strongest manifestations of Werner’s seeming desire to reconcile rhythm and pop with untamed experimentation. Elevations Above Sea Level’s overarching character is one of playful restlessness, an inquisitive disposition that borders on Attention Deficit Disorder.
With the exception of the four-to-the-floor kick of “Rosa In A Light Speed Vessel,” if you rest on any of these songs for surety, you’re going to be sent spinning from your seat. The opening “Roctrum” cranks into gear with a two-step misfire that’s wonderfully grouchy, but if you map your feet to its drag-and-stutter rhythm, its closing conundrum – as though Werner’s wheeling through pre-programs on a drum machine – will have you losing your place. “Rosa In A Light Speed Vessel” might pulse logically, but it’s scored with sweeping, whining glissandos of noise that remind of air squeezing out of balloons, or light aircraft swooping like magpies.
Everything here’s ductile, pliable, mutable – Werner likes his noise crunched but malleable, and he’s a master at re-assembly, putting things together so they’re ‘just not quite right.’ A remix of the first installment of Mound Magnet (by the Allophons, a.k.a. Cologne comrades C-Schulz and FX Randomiz) also brings the humor out in the open, but Lithops generally sounds like serious play, anyway. Toward the end things dissipate, and maybe Werner needs to lean a little harder on the edit button. But who cares when the results are so puckishly fun?