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Review: deadmau5's Album, ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’

Reviews are a pain-free way of combining writing with what I love (for example, music), in a way that generates interest.


There's Nothing Thought Free About "W:/2016ALBUM/"

Named after the computer directory in which the project's master recordings were originally stored, 35-year-old Canadian electronic music producer and DJ deadmau5 unleashes his eighth studio album, ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’. The newly released ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’ is commendably epic in scope. Throughout it, deadmau5 sounds as if he's actively attempting to go beyond the boundaries of everything he’s ever done before.

The LP's playlist of electro, house, EDM and downtempo tunes and glimmer with atmosphere. Apart from roaming, expeditious opener ‘4ware’, nothing on ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’ feels throwaway, off-the-cuff or thought free. ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’ isn’t dull, it’s just that many of its tunes sound notably purposeful and meticulous. The record's lack of abandon actually ends up providing its sweeping electronica with an authentic sense of depth. This especially true of the ambient infused cuts which conclude the record. These electronic soundscapes are not always thrilling, it’s unlikely listeners will be scrambling for the replay button after hearing them. Still, at best they have a de-stressing effect on the mind and can be wholly absorbing.

Releasing Tension With "Three Pound Chicken Wing"

Penetrating cuts ‘Whelk Then’ and ‘Three Pound Chicken Wing’ could potentially help listeners release a bad day’s tension. They would also sit nicely in the background of a long study session or mid-morning nap. Even the record’s accelerated efforts come off as somewhat calculated and cautious.

Eagle-eared fans may find themselves trying to descramble the puzzling, thought-provoking concepts behind certain tunes. The majority of them clock in at approximately six or seven minutes. The album’s more successful offerings squeeze the most from their prolonged durations and have an almost transportive effect on the listener.

Admittedly, the tracks that would benefit the most from a slight culling sit inside the LP’s introductory section. ‘2448’ and ‘Cat Thruster’ would've probably had the same overall impact if their playtimes were halved.


The Ruthless, Unswerving "Deus Ex Machina"

Seemingly expanding on the eerie feline growl heard at the very end of preceding cut ‘2448’, ’Cat Thruster’ is an immediate funky, disco-singed offering. The cool and collected song is seductive - its bump is undeniable. ‘Deus Ex Machina’ sounds as if it’s on some kind of hunt. While remaining dance-worthy, the feral tune is spurred forward by a ruthless momentum.

In honour of its title, the cut is decorated with robotic, machine-type effects. Around its midway point, ‘Deus Ex Machina’ pauses for a lengthy moment of enigmatic serenity. Nevertheless, as soon as this passage ends, the tune unswervingly gets back to business.

Two Minutes of Disruptive Electronic Chicanery

At just over two minutes long, the brief ’Glish’ crams in a cascade of peculiar EDM tricks. The tune’s eager setup is outlandish - it plays with dub, as well as dubstep ideas. Despite its scattered, computerized glitches and disruptive chicanery, ‘Glish’ feels methodical. The measured, sober execution of ‘Imaginary Friends’ simmers - the track never loses its cool. After a cluster of pulsating, throbbing synths scramble for dominance during the cut's opening section, ‘Imaginary Friends’ proceeds to ebb and flow with precision.

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New York Musician Grabbitz Guests on the Meditative "Let Go"

Featuring New York musician, DJ and record producer Grabbitz, single ‘Let Go’ is the only track on ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’ which features guest vocals. Over the tune’s spacious and euphoric instrumental, Grabbitz muses on his unending commitment to a loved one. ‘Let Go’ swells, it’s almost meditative. Thankfully, the romance of Grabbitz’s contribution is given the space it needs to establish itself.

‘Let Go’ channels a great deal of expressive electro emotion. ‘W:/2016ALBUM/’ contains an extended eleven-minute version of ‘Let Go’, which at first feels unnecessary. However, because the standard six-minute version of the track sounds as if it’s got so much more to say, the alternate version’s inclusion ultimately justifies itself.


"No Problem" Edges Listeners Towards the Dancefloor

In stark contrast to the more considered tunes that follow, ‘No Problem’ showcases a range of upfront and buzzing synths. It’s a razzy, energised highlight. Its big, brash presence definitely shakes up the tracklisting. Listeners will never be too sure about where the rollercoaster of a tune is going to go next.

In spite of its seven-minute runtime, ‘No Problem’ doesn’t gets complacent in its quest to edge listeners towards the nearest dancefloor. Fused with twinkling loops and gurgled, chopped effects, lead single ’Snowcone’ is propped up by sharper, striding beats. 'Snowcone’ isn't depressing, but it's overall tone is fairly pensive. The track is cushioned by a massively intense undercurrent. Because nothing on ‘Snowcone’ is blatant or given away freely, the cut holds tight to a mysterious aura.

"Whelk Then" Paints an Intricate Fantasy Movie Scenario

Reinforced by a deep-filled layer of groaning, melodic, underground tones, ‘Three Pound Chicken Wing’ is a stomping mid-tempo house instrumental. ‘Three Pound Chicken Wing’ evolves incrementally and rarely, if ever, oversteps itself.

In conflict with its animated title, the tune feels focused within its ever-so-slightly serious, solemn mood. ‘Whelk Then’ is comprised of many differing elements, and should sound more cluttered than it actually does. The cut boasts splashes of piano and jingle bell sounds. It also incorporates a selection of fleeting vocals and sci-fi ideas.

Luckily, all its spare parts come together to flesh out an immersive after-dark vibe. At times, ‘Whelk Then’ sounds as if it's trying to paint some kind of intricate fantasy movie scenario. It’s easy to imagine a whole other world within the track’s decorated production.

Verdict: ***** 5/10

Top: deadmau5, Bottom: Steve Aoki

Top: deadmau5, Bottom: Steve Aoki


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