3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: 4x4=12 (Audio CD)
Let me start by saying that I am not a house/electro music expert at all. My friends play it all the time but I literally no songs by name or artist. I decided to give deadmau5's latest album, "4x4=12" an objective listen as a fan of music.
As with many contemporary DJs, deadmau5 utilizes subdued ambient tracks that build into high-energy, drum thumping electronic tunes that often juxtapose low bass tones with high synth melodies. Whether you like the music or not, you can't deny deadmau5 creates lush musical portraits in which a wide array of timbres and pitches jump out at you. Rarely does a track feel empty or anything other than overwhelming. It is hard to deny that startled feeling you get after hearing certain sounds like the wobble-bass or piercing synth tones drop out of nowhere. In general, I would equate the album to a horror movie in that it shocks the senses into a state of euphoria.
The stand-out tracks for me were "Some Cords" and "Animal Rights". Deadmau5 does a fantastic job of combining the heavy drum tracks with a moving bass line, catchy melody, and ambient sound effects to create the lush songs I referred to earlier.
In terms of what deadmau5 is doing technically, he seems to be using every DJing technique I know of and then some. He has clearly mastered how to loop a drum machine, but there is so much more going on. After a first listen I can pick out pitch shifting, echo, granular synthesis, and frequency modulation all as computer processing techniques he uses. The synth sounds are all pretty unique as well. I would not be surprised if deadmau5 was designing his own digital synthesizers. Deadmau5 also likes to mix in the occasional vocal samples with his electronic compositions. A song such as "Sofi Needs a Ladder" that relies more heavily on the vocals felt a little out of place to me. I appreciated following the purely electronic songs and listening for how they evolved. The vocal tracks seemed more of a distraction from that electronic evolution of the song and an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.
Most tracks on the album had a pretty unique form. There was a definite theme of musical sections bleeding into each other. As a new idea entered the song an old one would drop out. In this sense it was fun to follow as each song transformed into something distinctly different from how it started. Though, most songs had varying amounts of original material, the idea of a journey was prevalent in all.
Historically, deadmau5 is following in multiple electronic artists footsteps. Just the concept of looping can be traced back to the French composer, Erick Satie who conceptualized a musical loop back in the mid 1800s. The combination of real, acoustic samples with purely electronically created sounds dates all the way back to the 1950s and the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen. The creative synth sounds deadmau5 uses are even still reminiscent of John Chowning's Yamaha DX-7, the original frequency modulation synthesizer. While these techniques are not new, deadmau5 is combining them and expanding on them in way that continues to make electronic music popular and relevant to the modern music listener.
Artistically, I don't know if deadmau5 has anything to say. His goal seems to be to hype up his listeners. While he accomplishes this masterfully, I doubt anyone is thinking differently about humanity after listening through this album. I would bet, however, most listeners are not looking for anything in terms of message.