New deadmau5 Album Review While (1<2)

While(1<2), deadmau5’s latest album, is an ambitious feat balancing his signature progressive house style with some new tech-house elements, the album also plays out like an experiment in dance music by Trent Reznor. After watching  many interviews regarding the pre-release I had expected him to go in a slightly different direction, but then again, when has Joel Zimmerman ever wanted to meet expectations. Unfortunately for myself, I had spoiled the surprises in the new album by closely following deadmau5’s soundcloud and website. So much of content was listened by familiar ears. This made a few gems, like Ice Age, My Pet Coelacanth, and Seeya lose their sheen of freshness. However, to new ears these tracks will carry some longevity like they did for me.

daedmue5_irockparties_party_parties_nightclub_club_JuanC_JuanCobain_Cobain

Interestingly enough, I found much of the unreleased material on the album to sound like a cross between Trent Reznor’s The Social Network Soundtrack and deadmau5’s Project 56 album (Some of the songs are originally from Project 56). I am not dissing the album. As much as I love Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, I found the imitation of style not as successful as the original. I think this is mainly due to the lack of direction or consistent theme. In Reznor’s songs, there lies a clear message of thoughts, emotions, and dystopic environments. In these deadmau5 tracks, the musicality is there, but filtered and watered down due to the lack of voice.

As for the rest of the album, most of everyone will love the electro house fuckery of “My Pet Coelacanth” and it’s glitchy-funk hiccuping. Random Album Title and For Lack of a Better Name fans will be digging on “Avaritia”, “Phantoms Can’t Hang“, “Mercedes”, and “Pets”. Those that have plunged deep into deadmau5’s library will be getting some Get Scraped and Vexillogy vibes from tracks like “Monday”, “Somewhere Up Here”, “Acedia”, and “Seeya.”

Summary

Deadmau5 fans old and new alike won’t be disappointed with this release. The more devout deadmau5 fans will appreciate how the album is more of a progression showcasing every step in the evolution of style he has undergone from Project 56 to Album Title Goes Here. Some will be disappointed by the fact that many of the tracks have  already been released in one iteration or another before; which might create a lack freshness on some level. But when it comes down to the meat and potatoes, releasing high quality and thoughtful tracks is deadmau5’s bread and butter. My favorite two tracks are Seeya and Ice Age. This might be because of the beautiful vocals accompanied, but I think these two tracks also stand out in terms of style and originality.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Monday

One of the most interesting songs that first popped out at me was the song, “Monday.” Immediately and unfamiliarly, but pleasantly surprising to my hardened robot ears, was the sound of an acoustic guitar. Despite it’s melancholic timbre as keys almost attempt to drown it out, I welcomed it. I try to listen to as many different genres I can, but I find myself easily sliding into an electronic binge at times, almost surprised when I hear the authenticity of acoustically original instruments. It’s honestly a weird feeling, and this song gave me one of those moments of realization.

Soon my robot ears were reoriented to a ghostly mechanical voice singing the lyrics:

Nobody’s wrong, nobody’s right
Everyone cheats, everyone lies
Nobody cares, nobody minds
Night turns to day
And then the sun shines…

Nobody’s wrong, nobody’s right
Everyone cheats, everyone lies
Nobody cares, nobody minds
Night turns to day
And then the sun shines…

I was a little disappointed when I heard the robot’s words. My soul wanted some humanity to accompany the other acoustics. The original version of this song from 2006 does feature a human’s touch. But there is no doubt that I will file this song away for a rainy Monday, whether it be a hard break-up or just one of those days of reflection. To me, the song resonates well with the acoustic version of “Careless” from his Get Scraped  album. I honestly think it is the expectations of that song that made me wish for a more human vocal accompaniment for “Monday.”

Avaritia

Seven of the twenty-five tracks featured on the album follow the theme of the seven deadly sins. The album-opener, “Avaritia,” is Latin for greed. It reminded me in a way of a more harmonic  “Some Chords” and is a strong track to open with. It is one of the few tracks that doesn’t stray too far from the roots of deadmau5’s progressive-house style. With crisp cymbal shots and vocal noise building up a slimy, revving beat. The track whips you into a cliffhanger and thrusts you into the next track, “Coelacanth I.”

Coelacanth I

It plays more like a two minute interlude, there isn’t much to say other than it’s deadmau5 creating his signature atmosphere progressivle evolving the distortion and then blending in a symphonic set of strings that mixes well together and is a nice fade into the track, “Ice Age.”

Ice Age – HTDA (deadmau5 Remix)

This track has been out for a few years now and ever since it has been my favorite deadmau5 remix. I know he doesn’t do many, so the fact that this is the second Trent Reznor song he has remixed really means something. As a song, I like it better than the original. It has just the right amount of folksy-strumming without overdoing it and the unique ringing and buzzes that chime in still give it that somewhat haunted traveling sensation. It’s like the whole song is moving through a tunnel. Trent Reznor’s guitar chimes in with the perfect amount of resonance and distortion while the the deep extended bass kicks implode like dented trashcan lid. It’s a song all about the details and despite the hundreds of uniquely random 1-hits that flow through the song, they are all carefully constructed with precision. Sound design is Joel Zimmerman’s bread and butter.

dead

Mercedes

I really like this track in its arpeggiated, twitchy glitchiness. Its fast pace and progression makes this song an excellent addition to any workout playlist.

My Pet Coelacanth

I’m not sure why Zimmerman felt the need to name three songs after a species of hollow-spined fish, but nevertheless “My Pet Coelacanth” is an electro-house trip unlike I and II. This is deadmau5 proper, especially with the “fucks” peppered into the drops. It’s a fun, loose track that gives off some “Feed Me” vibes while still staying true to his signature evolving ambient interludes. Hypnotizing bass drums accompany sporadic glitches that all seem disconnected, yet are all tied together with a fat, techy bass line.

Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer

mau5

I swear, the names this guy comes up with sometimes are some of the most outlandish parts of his songs. Deadmau5 mentioned before when he was talking about the album that,

 “It’s a good mix of shit I want to do versus shit people want to hear or what they would expect. It’s a good balance. It’s not like, ‘Oh, it’s such a departure. He’s doing smooth jazz.”

I think this was one of those tracks that he personally wanted to make. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say he wanted to make something to pump him up before racing in the Gumball 3000, and this track would definitely do it. On that same note though, I do find the race car sound effects to be annoying.  Listening to the song a few times in a row it becomes exponentially irritating.

The song’s strongest trait is its intro, but the hook about 2 and a half minutes in quickly becomes tired and lacking any real direction or creativity. The song is not for me and that’s alright.

Terrors In My Head

This dark, funky track gets creepy fast. You’re greeted with a rather terrifying voice followed by some more Reznor-esque haunted keys, as the distortion cuts in and out to the drop. To me, it sounds like a cross between “Bot” and deadmau5’s remix of “Community Funk”, while the outro moves with “Soma”, almost like its continuation. I love all the gliding  bit-crushes at the end.

optimal_APPROVED_DM_Shot01_0009__RED_Final

Phantoms Can’t Hang

This track reminded me of a slowed down “Slip” with a Big room vibe to it. The space given to it by the ambient, evolving background noise acts acts like an echo and would make this this track a powerful show-opener to get the crowd revved up.

Errors in My Bread & Survivalism

For a majority of the first half of the second album, deadmau5 becomes Nine Inch Nails. I know I’ve harped on this fact a lot, but it is at “Errors in My Bread” where  this fact is most apparent and is then followed by a “Survivalism” remix. This half of the album is my least favorite because it tries to be something it’s not. The tracks feel like NIN carbon copies and lack any real soul or meaning. I will say the Survivalism remix is done well, one of the best in fact. I just don’t think it belongs on the album and should have been put on Y34r Z3r0: R3M1x3d instead.

5

Pets

If “Monday’s” melancholy is for those down times, the song two tracks later, “Pets,” is the one to lift up your spirits and give you that auditory pat on the back that everything is going to be alright. It’s one of the few songs that might be recognizable to those earlier Random Album Title tracks that gushed classy progressive house beats. With bright, arpeggiated keys and a polished signature deadmau5 bass line, the track seems destined for that mid-set break in chaos to bring the crowd back to Earth again before sending them off on another electro-rush. It sounds like the perfect song to accompany Gareth Emery’s “Long Way Home.”

Coelacanth II

If someone played this song to me for the first time, I would have instantly said that Trent Reznor made this song. The evolving ambience, the haunted piano, I almost want to believe that Trent Reznor wrote this. It could be released as a With Teeth bonus song and I guarantee it would fool millions. I love it and it’s tracks like this that give me hope the folks attending the Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia are going to be in for a treat as both deadmau5 and Nine Inch Nails are expected to perform. With this album release, it is most likely a safe bet that they might be collaborating for the festival.

deadmau5 album review 2014

Seeya (feat. Colleen D’Agostino)

This was the track I was most excited for upon first listening a few weeks prior to the album’s release. It had that glitchy funk that I knew I would be getting down to at the next live show. The accompanied vocals by Colleen D’Agostino give it soul. The whole work flows with ease. It’s almost a nose-thumbing at Daft Punk’s elaborate funk album, Random Access Memories, where Zimmerman is showing just how effortless he can make an electro-funk track with just as much veracity (Niles Rodgers not required!) With that said, although this one is easily my favorite on the album, it almost feels out of place. Thrown at the very end of the second disc (is it still a disc if it’s digital?), “Seeya’s” tone just doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the album. It’s as if he re-worked the beginning with a static-filled panning just so it would somewhat flow with the rest of the album’s overall somber sound. That said, I would love to hear deadmau5 open with this track and really get the crowd dancing, not bobbing, to his set.

If you want to check out what is sure to be one of the most memorable festivals of the year, make the trek up to British Columbia this July for deadmau5 in concert with Nine Inch Nails at the Pemberton Music Festival. (Buy tickets Here)

 Let me know what you thought of the new album in the comments below!

Ben Morris

Ben Morris

Ben is a Midshipman in the United States Navy. Sometimes he disappears for months at a time, but when he's back, he's hitting shows in NYC and writing stellar reviews for Only The Beat.
↑ Back to top
Show Comments