By: Andrew Brown
Of all EDM producers, Joel Zimmerman (Deadmau5) is perhaps the one I enjoy listening to most, but I’ve long been disappointed with his album titles. His first LP was Random Album Title. Then For Lack of a Better Name. He’s a talented producer but his failure to give his works meaningful names suggests that he isn’t terribly interested in making a statement with a group of songs. But I suppose this should come as no surprise. After all, this is the guy who back handedly got into house music with “This Is The Hook”, a track that pokes fun at the rote-ness and predictability of house with its lyrics: “This is the hook, it’s catchy, you like it.” Though it started as a joke, “This Is The Hook” wound up the number one song on Beatport. How’s that for starting your music career.
Now Zimmerman gives us 4x4=12. Not exactly the most meaningful name, but at least better than his previous LPs. Maybe 4x4=12 is a commentary on the senselessness of the times we live in. Then again maybe not.
Though 4x4=12 is just now being released, many of its songs are familiar. Some, like “Cthulu Sleeps” and “One Trick Pony”, are fixtures of recent Deadmau5 sets. Four more – “Some Chords”, “Sofi Needs A Ladder”, “Animal Rights” and “Raise Your Weapon” – have also been released as singles. The glut of singles makes sense, as 4x4=12 has more crossover appeal than songs from Zimmerman’s previous albums; it hews closer to the mainstream accessibility of “Ghosts ‘n Stuff” than to the minimal style production of “Complications”.
There are still vestiges of the pre-pop Deadmau5 though. “Cthulu Sleeps”, my favorite track, is a heavy ten-minute marauder – certainly not for those who prefer to dip their toes into the poppy edges of house music, who can be accommodated on much of the rest of the album. And “Bad Selection” and Michael Woods’ remix of “I Said” recall old mau5 with their short vocal samples and synths that move from punctuated stacatto to smooth legato. “I Said” even harks back to Random Album Title, with a reprise of “Arguru”.
But the biggest departure from earlier Deadmau5 records isn’t Zimmerman’s straying towards the mainstream side of electronica but his exploration into dubstep. I first learned of his interest in dubstep a year ago when he relased “Catbread”, a house song which had a prominent and abrasive dubstep-like rattle. 4x4=12 has one and a half dubstep songs – “One Trick Pony” and the second half of “Raise Your Weapon”. Both tracks are excellent, but owe this more to their vocals (sneered by SOFI on “One Trick Pony”, crooned by Greta Svabo Bech on “Raise Your Weapon”) than to Zimmerman’s production, which is very decent for a first outing in the genre, but nothing groundbreaking.
Zimmerman’s curb appeal has never been higher. He has hands in a number of different genres. But it’s unclear how he will proceed from here. 4x4=12 is a crossroads of progressive house, dubstep, and poppy mainstream house. In spite of the new format of its title, 4x4=12 is less cohesive than any other Deadmau5 release (maybe that is what he means by 4x4=12). It would be a little ungainly for Zimmerman to continue dividing albums with all three types of music. But if history is any indicator we won’t have to wait long to see in which direction he heads. If he continues his constant prolific stream of output than we can expect another album by 2012.
The functionality you are trying to use is for members only. Would you like to sign in?