Mouse On Mars, Niun Niggung

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Niun Niggung

Mouse On Mars

Mouse on Mars have certainly proved one of the most adaptable acts in the underground pop landscape — a category which describes a band equally rooted in Krautrock and dance music far better than merely "electronic" or "experimental." Though perhaps "adaptable" isn't the word, as Mouse on Mars have never evolved to fit any discernible external influences; they've certainly never done anything like heed the prevailing winds of the pop marketplace. They've simply remained a profoundly mutable project, but always with an immutable core. It's never been possible to pin down Mouse on Mars to a particular sound — not even within the space of a single album. Still, there is a discernible arc in the progression of the band's albums, allowing listeners to tease out distinct phases in which various of Mouse on Mars 'interests become particularly clear.

This German electronic duo have every right to be cocky.

Since the turn of the decade, Mouse on Mars 'work has become both more focused and more chaotic. Niun Niggung announces its break with "Distroia," a frantic drum 'n 'bass pastiche that remains a staple of their live shows. (The version documented on Live04, sounding a bit like Squarepusher jamming to sped-up Sabbath records, is simply breathtaking.) It's hard to put one's finger on, but even wildly eccentric tracks like the mewling "Wald F.X." seem to have a newly confident sense of form — a sense of swagger, even — that is missing from previous albums.

Just listen to the way the lead melody shuffles through timbres, as frazzled as a chameleon climbing a tie rack, and listen to an answering riff, almost be-bop, that tumbles into the frame a minute and a half in: it's hard to think of any other contemporary electronic music with voicing so sophisticated or seductive. The same could be said for "Tensual," which somehow manages at once to conjure woodland idylls and amniotic repose, mapping space between a weightless low-end and a forest-canopy twitter.