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Radical Connector

Mouse On Mars
Radical Connector
(Thrill Jockey)

Mouse On Mars is an electronic group that has bucked the odds not only by staying together for a whole decade (their first release Vulvaland came out clear back in 1994), but at the same time have ducked and rolled and managed to keep themselves creating interesting and innovative music in that time. I was introduced to the group for the very first time via one of the great "Trance Europe Express" compilations, and scanning across the rest of the roster, most of the groups have either gone kaput or turned into boring fascimilles of themselves (Moby, Paul Van Dyk).

It seems like Mouse On Mars has always been a little bit ahead of many of their contemporaries. Before it was fashionable to use more live instrumentation in electronic music, Mouse On Mars were doing it, and before everyone started adding vocalists, the duo did that as well (although admittingly not nearly as much as they have on their last two discs). Speaking of previous releases, Idiology came out 3 years ago, and while it was lauded by some, it still felt like a transition album to me, as if they were trying out a few ideas to see what worked before moving fully into a certain direction.

Radical Connector seems like the logical next step having heard that release and it's much more solid on all fronts. There are vocals on every single track, and whereas it felt like an experiment at points on their last release, it feels fully integrated here. Dodo Nkishi adds his odd vocals to over half the tracks (including one of the most catchy things the group has ever done), while Niobe contributes to the rest and the result is an album that ebbs and flows nicely but always seems to aim for the butt.

Despite all the funkiness, after numerous times listening to Radical Connector, it still doesn't quite have the emotional grab of some of their older work despite the addition of more vocals and a slightly more glossy sound. There's no denying the swaggering power of the one-two opening punch of "Mine Is In Yours" and "Wipe That Sound." The latter especially chops up vocals by Nkishi while a swervy beat thumps and their trademark squishy sounds bump and grind the whole thing into a twitchy gelatinous mass that wobbles but won't fall down. "Spaceship" moves with similarly stutter-stepping beats and clipped vocals from Niobe, but once the group has run the gamut (after the infectious opening tracks and the slow krunk of "The End"), the album starts to feel like it's treading similar ground.

"Detected Beats" is an attempt at taking things in a different direction with more spoken word lyrics and less of a focus on a rump-shaking rhythm, but without the latter nor much of a melody it just sort of meanders around while the freaky filtered vocals and loping beat of "All The Old Powers" feels somewhat like a re-tread of earlier tracks that move in similar ways. The closer of "Evoke An Object" changes things up by finally upping the tempo, but at 8 minutes simply goes on for far too long. Although it's not as radio friendly as your usual top 40 fare, Radical Connector is still easily the most 'pop' thing that the duo of Mouse On Mars has ever done. My favorite release of theirs is still Glam, but if I'm looking for something purely for body moving, I'll probably reach for this.

Rating: 7