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Mouse on Mars, ‘Live 04’ (Sonig 2005)

Electronic music has been getting its corners sanded lately, as the Postal Service’s digital translation of wimp rock (and Iron & Wine’s acoustic regurgitation of the Postal Service) began to decelerate the genre. Thanks to motorik beats and Skittles-friendly folk music in flicks about New Jersey, the genre once admired for its autobahn-friendly, EQ’ed-out synth squeals now sputters along at Zoloft-induced frequencies. With Live 04, however, German electronic music paterfamilias Mouse on Mars (Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner) showcase paroxysmal and peripatetic tracks that refuse to succumb to the middlebrow mind-numbness of Generation Z.

Live 04 selects highlights from MoM’s expansive oeuvre as performed on their 2004 tour supporting Radical Connector. From the ambient-yet-boiling “Frosch” (off their 1994 debut Vulvaland) to the über-syncopated “Gogonal” (from 2000’s Niun Niggung), MoM might be said to pound out the type of album they’ve been criticized for before: one that’s overly ambitious and unfocused. Live 04, however, smartly ballasts their various influences (be they of the Krautrock- or trance-fueled variety) and flows with the brio of a best-of compilation.

Celebrating the schizophrenic shifts that have characterized their decade-long career, MoM flaunt the IDM drills of “Twift,” the funk-mantra bassline of “Diskdusk,” the deep-throated and robotic vocal musings of “Mine is Yours” and the whooshing synth-pop of “Wipe That Sound.” With the exception of “Distroia,” which benefits from the visceral tom work of Dodo Nkishi, each track is thumped out like their studio-mastered works. They come off so near-flawlessly that it’s easy to forget the songs are live recordings until the audience chimes in with applause. Live 04‘s high-octane, manufactured pulses are all somehow organic, and they throb at speeds meant for the German expressway, not the Jersey Turnpike.