deadmau5 4x4=12 Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A third album which stops short of revealing the man behind the mouse.

Alex Denney 2010

Ten years into the new millennium and the fate of the superstar DJ is in even ruder health than it was at the tail end of the last one. Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Basshunter, Magnetic Man — all are capitalising on pop’s resurgent interest in European club sounds, rudely scraping back chairs at the charts’ top table in the process.

deadmau5 alias Joel Zimmerman sits squarely in that category. The Toronto DJ has vaulted his way to celebrity status with two albums of enormodome electro house cuts, plus a leg-up from progressive don Pete Tong. His image has no doubt helped, too — he wears an outsized mouse head onstage, making headphones rather difficult.

2009’s sophomore For Lack of a Better Name was a big hit, spawning top 20 hit Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff. But Zimmerman had even grander schemes in mind, and 4x4=12 arrives touted as his first ‘artist’ record, a potential unmasking of the DJ persona that promises a break from strictly floor-bound thrills.

Alas, the reality is less exciting than that: the third deadmau5 album turns out to be a solidly crafted club record with only the most fleeting of nods towards creating something more expansive. Opener and single Some Chords does at least reference genre innovators — it has the coolly pressurised glide of Daft Punk’s early productions, even if it does sound less like jetting about in the aircraft of the future than way back when.

Sofi Toufa spits a sassy vocal over Sofi Needs a Ladder’s rudely electro-tinged techno, but by the time A City in Florida rolls around the thwacking, 4/4 pulse has become a deadening thing and imagination seems in short supply, right down to the needle-approaching-red build somewhere in the middle. Depressingly, it’s a trick Zimmerman sees fit to repeat on the Mr Oizo-ish Bad Selection. That rather anonymous interlude is bookended by highlight Animal Rights, which has the delinquent, electro-funk feel of the best Justice stuff and provides much needed respite.

There are more contemporary sounds here, too. Raise Your Weapons lurches suddenly from vocal-led, ambient house into the dentist-drill arsenal of sounds more commonly associated with Benga, and One Trick Pony is similarly dubstep of intent but with a supremely annoying ‘flow’ courtesy of the aforementioned Ms Toufa.

It’s a colourful grab-bag, but Zimmerman’s ear for stock clubland dynamics means that while 4x4=12 barely breaks sweat whomping the listener into submission, it also stops way short of revealing the man behind the mask.

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