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Mouse on Mars - Parastrophics

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Artist: Mouse on Mars

Album: Parastrophics

Label: Monkeytown

Review date: Feb. 27, 2012

Based on Mouse On Mars’ relatively recent past, Parastrophics could have gone a couple ways. The German duo hammered their skittish beats and idiom-evading electronics into an uncommonly monochrome approximation of rock riffs on 2006’s Varcharz; it’s as close as they’ve ever come to sounding dour. On the other hand, Von Sudenfed, their daft summit with The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, was not only loads more good-natured than Mr. Smith’s usual day at the office, but one hell of an impossible-to-pin-down good time. Smith hasn’t made a better album in the past 10 years, and it’s near the top of Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner’s discography.

Parastrophics keeps up the latter’s evasive action; whatever one song does, the next won’t do. Smith’s influence lingers in the inscrutable and confrontational mouth music of “Chordblocker, Cinamon Toasted.” Guest vocalist Steven Jo does his best hip-hop pout. But his posturing is undermined as much by his garbling accent, which makes the word “chordblocker” sound like “cockrocker,” as it is by the dissonant clashing of tongue clicks flying from one speaker while a drunkenly whistling synths spirals out of the other.

Elsewhere, the voices are stymied by treatments or simply absent. “Syncropticons” is all vocoder’d croons and squelchy rhythms that plop like overripe fruit dropping out of a tree in disturbingly seductive syncopation; is that a squashed banana in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? “Polaroyced’s” gaudy synths and gaudier fake drums bump along like a minimally updated Time backing track, but the vocal has been electronically reduced to anonymity. If Smith’s voice threaded Tromatic Reflexxions together, Parastrophics feels like it has no center. And if Varcharz was one rodent nation under a heavy groove, this album is a loose federation of beats, boings, robot-ified voices, and event-packed mixes that hang together for a bit, dissolve into disharmony, then recombine in new configurations. Put another way, this is one record that gets better when you play it on shuffle.

By Bill Meyer

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