What is Joel Zimmerman’s angle? I would really like to be filled in on some of his secrets. Did he just one night decide he wanted to change electronic music, or was this part of his diabolical plan? Did he mean for his screen name and evil Mickey Mouse helmets to become iconic? For those of you who have somehow not read about any kind of music anywhere in the past year, Joel Zimmerman is better known to the world as deadmau5, the DJ who “doesn’t want to be called a DJ,” something I never quite understood…. until now that is.
Deadmau5 has been everywhere in the past year, and has gone from basement computer geek to a game-changing composer. What deadmau5 is doing for techno is kind of what the Ramones did for rock and roll about 30 years ago; he’s making techno simplistic, easily accessible, and catchy as hell. Not to mention the guy is everywhere; between touring, festival appearances, being the house DJ at the VMAs, and flying in helicopters to do multiple gigs in one day. His beats are techno textbook standard, yet somehow works of art. Maybe one drum line the whole time, that drops at given points throughout the song, two or three different hooks, and little sound effects added here and there. The thing is, though, these are all his composed loops, his original thought, and his genius at work. Listening to an entire deadmau5 record is a tour through Zimmerman’s head, and it’s smart and catchy as hell.
Those of you who actually listen to deadmau5 will have heard a majority of these songs. I mentioned the release of this album to an acquaintance and he immediately named off about five tracks, without ever having listened to the actual album. The album opens up with “Some Chords”, a gem that has graced his live show for some time now. It starts with a creepy organ that keeps building open itself, and continuously raises a few octaves every four bars. The drums eventually pick up, and when we’ve reached the highest pitch, all hell breaks loose. Then the drums heat up, dub-step sound effects pop up, and a synth line that will not leave your head anytime soon pound out of your speakers. It’s the pinnacle of a techno orgasm, and it’s only the first track. The song rages on for seven minutes, and you don’t want it to end.
Following the most epic deadmau5 opener since “Sometimes, Things Get Whatever” is the ever-popular “SOFI Needs a Ladder”, featuring the aforementioned SOFI (which stands for Some Other Female Interest). This song has been played live on many occasions, with SOFI herself, which saves photographers who are desperately trying to take pictures in the photo pit. SOFI’s rhymes and flow are quite bratty, but compliment Zimmerman’s dub-step style composition. The rhyming is quick and hostile with lines like, “You’re just too sweet/Until you get on my nerves like cavity/You left a bad taste in my mouth/You sour patch kid.” Meanwhile the beat builds throughout each verse, getting more and more exciting. Basically, this is 2010’s “Ghosts N’ Stuff”.
From here, the album is basically a non-stop party, catering to various styles of electronic music, showing deadmau5’s wide range of sound and ability to compose, not just mix. “A City in Florida” sounds like Miami. I mean what other city could it be? (Tampa? Orlando? Why?) The drums remain at a high heart rate, while the melody is no more than two or three notes in chainsaw form and a few blips. But it sounds sweaty. “Animal Rights” features Wolfgang Gartner and contains one of the catchiest hooks on the entire album, a harpsichord sounding riff, which goes high pitched every four bars, and then sounds like a robot dying in the midst of a musical.
Following is “I Said (Michael Woods Remix)” which is one of the trancey numbers on the CD. The creepy voice muttering “I Said” throughout the whole song gives it a dark vibe, while a blip goes on rhythmically and the sound of air speeds up. Every 16 bars or so, you get the second catchiest synth riff on the album, which lasts for no more than a few seconds. Eventually, you hit a breakdown, reminiscent of the deadmau5 classic, “Arguru”, which matches back into the song, for more trance chaos.
There’s the 10-minute epic “Chtulu Sleeps”, and the apocalyptic “Right This Second” which conjures images of trying to get somewhere in the nick of time, but it’s the final vocal tracks that make this album truly interesting. There is another track with SOFI, “One Trick Pony”, which caters more to the dub-step style of production. SOFI violently raps stating things like “I’ll never be sloppy seconds,” and “I’d rather be eating glass,” while the beat will surely make people in the rave scene get low. The track before it “Raise Your Weapon”, features the haunting singing of Greta Svabo Bech. Her beautiful singing is paired up with a haunting piano hook that builds with drums and synths throughout the song. About halfway through, the instruments drop out and, then everything turns into sludgy dub-step, paired with the still beautiful vocals. It’s such a contrast that makes you realize some sort of musical genius is at work.
Joel Zimmerman is revolutionizing electronic music, whether hates want to admit it or not, and this album is just another testament to prove it. He has built an enormous platform of success with his genius composition, amazing show and iconic figurehead, and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon. And the reason he can maintain his status is because he’s not a DJ. He’s not relying on anybody else out there to make something unique for him to sample; he’s making them all himself. Joel Zimmerman only has to rely on deadmau5, and the party won’t ever stop. And the mouse is far from dead.