Deadmau5 has never been good at album titles, but in a year when mainstream artists like Bon Iver have shaken up the naming of their music, anything goes. Made for huge arenas and pulsing lightshows, W:/2016ALBUM is business as usual for masked Canadian producer Joel Zimmerman, who looked to his fans to suggest the title of his eighth studio album.
The first album of his own mau5trap label brings the steady-beat, understated, synth-heavy style he’s famed for, but not much else. It offers the kind of untz-untz headache you’d hear leaking from some gym meathead’s Beats from the other side of the room. Zimmerman himself has disowned the album via Twitter, where he revealed he was only releasing it to pay bills.
The mouse-headed DJ has always been adept at painting rich, futuristic electronic soundscapes that somehow manage to be simultaneously cold and sensual, and he revisits this on opener 4ware. Strobing synths and pulsing techno energy intensify on the tensely paranoid Imaginary Friends, which pulls a rubbery bass behind crisp, sparkling melodies.
US singer Grabbitz features on the album’s lone vocal track, Let Go, over low, brassy synths and soft strings that build towards heart rate monitor synths and hissing tempo that abruptly flatlines after five minutes. It’s easy to see why Whelk Then and Snowcone are Zimmerman’s picks of the record: the former is a cerebral, faintly exotic-sounding mix straight out of the ’90s, while the other is ice-dusted and echoey, using a crackly beat to evoke a stuck vinyl record.
Aside from providing the soundtrack to hundreds of parkour videos, Deadmau5’s music has always been a go-to for gamers to plug into as background noise while deep in lengthy sessions. The only problem is that video game soundtracks these days are carving their own niche in electronica – and the safe-stepping celebrity heavyweights like Deadmau5 aren’t keeping up.
Edited by Ginny Wong