Electronic producer Deadmau5 retreated, Bon Iver-style, to write the bulk of his dense, thoughtful eighth album in the Canadian countryside. It’s a fitting creation legend for the anti-star, a Twitter crank who openly hates the term “EDM,” snarks at many of its professionals and prefers anonymity underneath a giant mouse head. While most of his fellow main-stage festival favorites continue to either churn out vocal-driven, vaguely house-inflected pop, or vocal-driven, vaguely trap-inflected pop, one of the music’s most famous and visible stars has done neither.
With the breadth and beauty of a rural sky, 10 of the 11 expansive tracks on W:/2016ALBUM/ unroll across at least five-and-a-half-minutes. Tracks ebb and flow from style to style; they end abruptly, rather than pretending to blend seamlessly. This is an album, proper, and most definitely not a mix – and it’s definitely not made just for a big-room dance floor.
There’s still plenty of the type of four-on-the-floor numbers which he made his name, but plenty of left turns and detours abound, starting with the album’s opening “4Ware,” which recalls the melodic, wistful trance of the turn of the millennium. Later, “Imaginary Friends” flirts hard with throbbing techno and “Snowcone” is a straight-up bit of trip-hoppy boom-bap worthy of a chillout room or a Brooklyn yoga class. On the LP’s lone vocal track, little-known artist Grabbitz pushes along a moody and slowly building 11-and-a-half-minutes of saudade.
Fist-pumpy EDM cheese this most certainly is not. Instead, W:/2016ALBUM/ works equally in a field, car or headphones, the latest catalog entry from an artist who continues to delight in bucking expectations.