Mouse on Mars

Idiology (Thrill Jockey)

May 30, 2001 at 4:00 am
Strict adherents to genre (drum & bass types especially) should take the advice of George Clinton, whose criticism of disco was that the form merely defines a certain beat and, although there's nothing wrong with the disco beat itself, playing or listening to any single beat over and over is like having sex without ever changing your stroke.

Mouse on Mars are having plenty of sex lately, judging by the changes they go through on Idiology. In fact, they go much further than presenting a variety of beats, rhythms and sounds, leaving the electronic realm entirely several times. There's plenty of hyperactive funk, plenty of noise, plenty of their signature goofball reggae, but there's also a piece that's pure chamber music and one that's spoken-word. It's an exciting, maddeningly eclectic CD, and it proves that Mouse on Mars have immense testicles. What other electronic group would have the nerve to put out a tune consisting of violins and (gulp!) acoustic guitars?

The price of boldness and experimentation, of course, is the occasional laboratory explosion, and we pay for the rest of the record by listening to the third track, an earnest, poetic-psychedelic ballad. At the other end of the world from the ballad and guitars is "first : break," a frenzied, speedy noisefest that reaches that point where the volleys of machine-gun fire blur into a calming variegated drone. There's a rhythm somewhere in all those 256th notes that's not entirely obvious; then a little honking melody jumps in, and the order that was barely discernible becomes pleasingly apparent.

If you threw a hip-hop party in your living room, and if you lived next door to a string quartet, and if they were practicing during this party, and if by some miracle the piece they were playing just happened to sync up exactly with the fat beats you were throwing down, then you would have absolutely no need of this CD. These events being less than probable, Idiology is as close as you'll get to the situation described above. Your ass will move to it, your brain will eat it and, by the end of the acoustic-guitar track, hell, you might even forget that you're not into that kind of crap.