Mouse on Mars: Radical Connector

Mouse on Mars

Radical Connector

Thrill Jockey

Whether introduced to Mouse on Mars through early-'90s electronica like Seefeel and the Orb, or through MOM's work with indie-rock stalwarts like Stereolab, High Llamas, and the Pastels, a generation of youngersters still view the German duo's bubbling playfulness as a gateway to laptop's infinite pop-sibilities. Even as Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma wrap the post-structuralist thought of Gilles Deleuze around their winsome splats, beeps, and squeaks, Mouse on Mars's name invokes cute cartoon rodents in Saturday-morning shenanigans. Don't call them childish, though; they're ageless.

Consider that when MOM made their debut with 1994's dreamy Vulvaland, sky pagers and ZIP disks were still the cutting edge of technology. In an era of short-lived electronic music careers, the duo stayed relevant a decade later through reinvention and self-examination, challenging the changing climes in electronic music. When many artists were shifting to digital DSP programming, the duo absorbed acoustic sounds, bringing on drummer/Robert Wyatt-soundalike Dodo Nkishi for 2001's Idiology. The resulting tracks ricocheted their sound in woozy, rubbery, Carl Stalling-esque patterns.

For Radical Connector, their first all-vocal album (Dodo shares vocal duties with fellow femme vocalist Niobe) and eighth release overall, Mouse on Mars once again stand out from their quirky Cologne peers. The group's sound remains pliant, but with a previously unimagined swagger--an aqua boogie that looks for the dance floor amid the din. "Wipe That Sound" has more thump in its trunk than anything else in their discography, and the core funk of "Blood Comes" sounds like Dirty Mind-era Prince. There're no sex rhymes to be found though; instead, the underlying themes of freedom and resistance run throughout. Werner and Toma also meditate on the practice of wabi sabi, a Taoist train of thought focused on things imperfect and temporal, yet their music is neither of these things. Ten years after their debut, Werner and Toma--to quote "All the Old Powers"--still contest "those presets of sound, against the nonlinear language of the unbound." Could this be their fountain of youth?