Mouse on Mars, “Dimensional People”

Mouse on Mars
Dimensional People
THRILL JOCKEY
6/10

When German electronic duo Mouse on Mars set out to make Dimensional People, they were more interested in recording sonic sculpture than traditional songs. While their last slew of records felt at home on the dance floor, MoM’s Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner wanted their new music to create space as well as fill it—and they’ve succeeded, to an extent. The first two parts of the title-track introductory suite completely immerse the senses; a hailstorm of glitchy, programmed percussion rushes past, while nocturne saxophone and quick licks on guitar reach into new crevices of audible space. By “Dimensional People Part III,” however, a force wrenches the listener from this expansive aural universe: It’s Bon Iver and his signature Auto-Croon.

Toma and St. Werner know that it takes a village to build an edifice, so they recruited over twenty musicians to contribute to Dimensional People. There’s Beirut’s Zach Condon, Sam Amidon, Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, and many more. But rather than simply enlisting collaborators, MoM seemed to hand out the blueprints of Dimensional People with no indication of the ground or sky. The result is an incongruous mixture of songs—some affected, others exceptional. The latter typically results from Dimensional People’s mostly instrumental offerings. “Daylight” is an exemplary take on Chicago footwork—clacking polyrhythms, bursts of horn, and no-wave guitar knit together in unconventional ways, covering corners of space in every direction. The second and third “Parliament of Aliens” installments find MoM indulging their wildest Tangerine Dreams; fluttering strings give way to tidal waves of static, and you truly feel as though you’re traveling through a glittering world of their own design.

The problems arise when Mouse on Mar’s collaborators rupture that environment. On “Dimensional People Part III,” it is impossible not to register Justin Vernon’s presence, ejecting the listener from the enveloping soundscapes he warbles over top of. “Foul Mouth,” featuring Condon, is lush with textures of mouth harp, noodling synth, and swells of harmonic voice, but all of this is blindsided by a contrived rap shoved in the center that seems to bear no connection with the rest of the album. It is evident that Toma and St. Werner are still deft at sonic world-building, but the guestlist of personalities on Dimensional People often causes that world to fall flat. 

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