Saturday, 12 April 2014


Year:    1997
Country:    Germany
City:    Düsseldorf
Label:    Too pure
Format:    CD, LP
Tracks:    12
Time:    50 min.
Genre:    electronic
Style:            IDM

Dabbling in complex, heavily hybridized forms of everything from ambient, techno, and dub to rock, jazz, and jungle, German post-techno duo Mouse on Mars was the combined effort of Andi Toma and Jan St.
Werner (of Köln and Düsseldorf, respectively). Mouse on Mars formed in 1993, reportedly when Werner and Toma met either at a death metal concert or a health food store. Working from Werner's studio, the pair fused an admiration for the early experiments of Krautrock outfits like Can, Neu!, Kluster, and Kraftwerk into an offbeat update including influences from the burgeoning German techno and ambient scenes. A demo of material found its way to London-based guitar-ambient group Seefeel, who passed it on to the offices of their label, Too Pure.

MOM's first single, "Frosch," was released by the label soon after and was also included on their debut album, Vulvaland. Immediately hailed for its beguiling, inventive edge that seemed to resist all efforts at easy "schublade" (an even less flattering approximation of the English "pigeonhole"), Vulvaland was reissued in 1995 by (oddly) Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, which also released their follow-up, Iaora Tahiti, soon after. More upbeat and varied than their debut, the album made some inroads into the American marketplace, but the group's somewhat challenging complexity and steadfast refusal to pander made widespread popularity unlikely. They returned in 1997 with three different releases -- the EP Cache Coeur Naif, the LP Autoditacker, and the vinyl-only Instrumentals. Another vinyl-only release (Glam) appeared in 1998, and was followed a year later by the "official" follow-up to Autoditacker, Niun Niggung.

Although remixes are rare, Mouse on Mars began appearing with increasing frequency on compilations of experimental electronic music, including Volume's popular Trance Europe Express series. They were also prominently featured on a pair of tribute albums -- Folds and Rhizomes and In Memoriam -- dedicated to French poststructuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Idiology, which introduced percussionist/collaborator Dodo NKishi into the fold, followed in 2000 on Thrill Jockey. In 2004, the duo celebrated a decade's worth of work with the release of Radical Connector and a global tour, which was captured by 2005's concert album Live04. The following year's hard-hitting Varcharz was released by Ipecac. St. Werner also recorded as half of the duo Microstoria (with Oval's Markus Popp) and solo as Lithops.

Following Varcharz, the duo kept busy with other projects, both collaborative and solo, including their work with Mark E. Smith as Von Südenfed, St. Werner's duties as the artistic director of Amsterdam's Institute for Electronic Music, and Toma's productions for Stereolab, Junior Boys, and Moondog. The pair reconvened as Mouse on Mars for 2011's Paeanumnion, an electronically processed live orchestral piece for which they created their own music software. This software was also crucial in crafting 2012's Parastrophics, which returned to the textural interplay and mischievous avant electropop for which the duo was acclaimed. Later that year, they returned with WOW, a mini-album inspired by club music and acid techno. As cheeky as ever, the duo celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2014 with 21 Again, which featured collaborations with friends such as Tortoise, Mark E. Smith, Laetitia Sadier, Siriusmo, and Modeselektor. They commemorated the album's release with a two-day music festival in Berlin. Mouse on Mars returned with new music in 2016 with the Infinite Greyscale release Lichter, a 13-minute track that marked the start of a series of electro-acoustic dub compositions from the duo. Along with live percussion by NKishi, the track also featured contributions by MIDI robot triggers (live performances of Lichter also included flashing lights triggered by data from the track's sounds and rhythms). ~ Sean Cooper
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