Mouse On Mars - Varcharz
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Mouse On Mars

As I've mentioned in other reviews, although their albums don't consistently win me over, I have to give Mouse On Mars credit for never sticking to the same formula. Over the course of the decade plus of their existence, the group has evolved their sound in logical ways, adding vocals long before their electronic contemporaries did and eventually morphing into a live trio that put on one of the more entertaining shows I saw a couple years back. That rule holds true on Varcharz, as the group again pushes into new territory, without singer/drummer Dodo Nkishi (who was their partner-in-arms on both Radical Connector and Live 04.

The new direction for the group plays both plays off their live show and doesn't. While the drumming from their recent tour is obviously absent, this newest release finds them at their most dense and heavy, with huge slabs of sound slamming down around distorted dance beats and curious melodies. "Chartnok" opens the release with a kick as short melodic bursts and random sprays of electronics dance around sharp-edged breakbeats and an absolutely snarling dirty bass. "Düül" is even more crazy as heavy-metal style bass rumbles play out over double-kick beats, high-end melodic feedback, and some bleeps and bloops to offset the noise.

Elsewhere, the album basically sounds like the Mouse On Mars that you know and love, albeit with a bit more feedback and crust. "Skik" finds Andi Toma rocking a smooth bassline, but it's surrounded by such a wall of noise and feedback that the track comes across as sort of a weird instrumental rock jam that never quite takes hold during its short run length. "Inocular" is especially familiar for the group as playful swinging melodies swerve over blurping and thudding beats while bursts of feedback threaten to crack the track in half.

On the latter half of the release, the group falls into a bit of a rut and it's hard to claw free as the duo keeps piling sound after sound on top of one another while dropping 8-bit electronics into just about every track. The epic "Hi Fienilin" (which runs almost seven minutes) has some fine moments, but is sort of a slog in other places. The same goes for the album closer of "One Day, Not Today," which moves between queasy synth/free jazz amblings and noisy electronic freakouts. In the end, Varcharz feels like an in-betweener album (which it is, as they're supposedly recording a proper, more poppy follow-up to Radical Connector now), where the duo hasn't quite figured out which direction they want to move in next.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2006-09-14 21:22:43