After a last-minute switch of venue and a little confusion due to the fact that two shows were going on at the same time in the same venue, German electronica veterans Mouse On Mars finally took to the stage at the Bootleg Theater at 12:45 in the morning after initially being booked to play at El Rey Theatre. Maybe it was the last-minute shift, or the very late start, but the audience seemed somewhat subdued and even a little unwilling to stick around for the duration of the set, which was hardly taxing at just over an hour. This was a real shame, as the duo came on and blitzed through an hour of thrilling sounds and giddy experimentation that always had the audience at heart. This was dancefloor music for the head as well as the hips, and it was an hour’s worth of furious energy.
The duo dropped their first album in six years with last February’s compelling Parastrophics before making up for lost time with another mini-album release before 2012’s end. If there is one criticism of the record, it is a surplus of ideas rather than a shortage, occasionally giving the album a slightly exhaustive feel. On stage, however, the duo allowed the songs to breathe and take on a life of their own, and their set was essentially comprised of extended remixes of their own work to a backdrop of epilepsy-inducing visuals. The mass of wiring and equipment on stage offered a chance for the two men to improvise and sample their own voices, twist sounds into entirely new shapes, and develop a groove that meant that rather than just watching a couple of guys twiddling knobs, audience members were being challenged to not dance.
The fact that so many present decided to take up that challenge is hardly Mouse On Mars’ fault. “Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted” was an opening incentive against a fierce hip-hop beat that set the tone, and they slipped the manically hyperactive “Baku Hipster” into their set early. The album highlight sounded even better in an extended form in which the band’s maximal sonic assault stopped short of being overwhelming, instead coming off as truly exhilarating. Their brand of experimentation bears the hallmark of very human curiosity rather than detached calculation, and the sheer level of energy thrown out by the men was joyous. The duo is celebrating 20 years together as Mouse On Mars, and the fact that they remain not only enthusiastic but genuinely relevant is a testament to the talent involved.
Mouse On Mars went through so many styles of electronica during the set as to render any genre reference pointless. This is unclassifiable music, shifting from bass music one minute to Warp Records-style IDM the next. “They Know Your Name” might feature some odd vocal treatments in its sound, but the cumulative effect is that of a proper dancefloor banger. It’s that kind of variety that makes so much dance music sound lazy and flat in comparison. Mouse On Mars is effortlessly exciting.
They ended their set by politely telling fans it was all over and thanking them for coming. The reaction was respectful but hardly ecstatic. Apart from a couple of dozen people at the front of the audience who jumped into the spirit of things at the earliest opportunity, it was so strange to see a studiously quiet group of people while the duo on stage gave them everything they had. Mouse On Mars deserved better. They may not boast the commercial profile of some of their peers, but they have a back catalogue and reputation to rival any of them and a stage show that requires a room full of people going nuts to do it justice. Perhaps bigger stages are still ahead of them.
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