MOUSE ON MARS
In those rare moments when electronic music artists aren't taking themselves too seriously, the humor they do manage to find is too often kitschy or obvious--like µ-ziq's easy-listening yuks or Coldcut's clever juxtapositions of spoken-word samples. With their last few albums and especially with the new Niun Niggung (Thrill Jockey), Mouse on Mars has found a happy medium. Though the German duo's endless barrage of rubbery and sometimes flatulent computer squiggles is amusing, it's not explicitly jokey, and the bleeps, bloops, and squishes are put in service of real compositions. The pieces don't follow standard pop song structures, but they constantly move and develop in satisfying, invigorating ways. Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma incorporate all sorts of trendy flavors into their work without letting them take over: "Diskdusk" rides to its conclusion on a swell of disco strings, on "Yippie" a fast ska lope is countered by sputtering techstep beats, and in "Mompou" formless noise undulates alongside Bill Dixon-esque trumpet sounds. The duo also drafted a crew of guest musicians to augment their already expansive range of sounds: "Mykologics" uses punchy, gradually shifting horn riffs to propel the bouncy groove, and "Download Sofist" opens with gently articulated guitar and bass trumpet lines, suggesting the warmer orchestral moments on Tortoise's TNT. When Mouse on Mars last performed in Chicago, opening for Stereolab at Metro in 1997, St. Werner and Toma weren't much to look at, bobbing their heads behind a tableful of knobs and lights and wires, but this time they'll be joined by drummer Dodo Nkishi, a Krautrock groove specialist, and Toma will play bass. The Chicago Underground Duo opens. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thomas Rabsch.