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Mouse On Mars

Mouse on Mars' skill at combining and recontextualizing everything from ambient, techno, and dub to rock and jazz makes them one of electronic music's most restlessly creative acts. On albums such as 1994's Vulvaland and the following year's Autoditacker, Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner forged an unpredictable, beguiling mix of ambient pop, dub, Krautrock, industrial, and more. The duo's heavily hybridized approach only grew richer as Toma and St. Werner added harder-edged beats and more hooks to 2000's Idiology and delivered equal amounts of experimentation and mischief on 2012's Parastrophics. With 2018's Dimensional People, a meld of footwork and orchestral influences with triggered percussion, and 2021's artificial intelligence concept album AAI, Mouse on Mars' blend of cutting-edge technology, academic theory, and enduring passion for all kinds of electronic music was as adventurous as ever. Toma and St. Werner (who also recorded as half of the duo Microstoria with Oval's Markus Popp and solo as Lithops) began working as Mouse on Mars in 1993 and fused an admiration for the early experiments of Krautrock outfits like Can, Neu!, Kluster, and Kraftwerk with influences from the burgeoning German techno and ambient scenes. A demo of material found its way to London-based guitar-ambient group Seefeel, sent it to the offices of their label, Too Pure. The duo'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, the album was reissued in 1995 by Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, which also released their more varied and upbeat follow-up, Iaora Tahiti, soon after. They returned in 1997 with three different releases -- the EP Cache Coeur Naif, the LP Autoditacker, and the vinyl-only Instrumentals. Another vinyl release, Glam, appeared in 1998, and was followed a year later by the official follow-up to Autoditacker, Niun Niggung, which featured more live instrumentation. Around this time, Mouse on Mars appeared on several compilations of experimental electronic music, including Volume's popular Trance Europe Express series, and they were also prominently featured on the tribute album Folds and Rhizomes for Gilles Deleuze. Mouse on Mars began the 2000s with two of their most accessible albums: 2000's Idiology, which introduced percussionist/collaborator Dodo NKishi into the fold, and 2004's Radical Connector, which spawned a world tour captured by the following year's concert album Live04. The hard-hitting Varcharz, which was recorded at the same time as Radical Connector, was released by Ipecac in 2006. 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 were acclaimed. Later that year, they returned with WOW, a mini-album inspired by club music and acid techno that featured collaborations with vocalist Dao Anh Khanh and the punk band Las Kellies. The duo celebrated their 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). Arriving in 2017, Synaptics EP saw them embrace their love of juke, footwork, and chopped-up house music. During this time, St. Werner was also a visiting lecturer at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology program as well as a professor of interactive media and dynamic acoustics at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg. For 2018's full-length Dimensional People, Mouse on Mars combined triggered percussion with footwork and orchestral influences and collaborated with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, the National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Beirut's Zach Condon, Spank Rock, Ensemble Musikfabrik, and Swamp Dogg. The members of Mouse on Mars then spent some time on their solo projects, which included St. Werner's 2019 album Glottal Wolpertinger and Toma's Damn Luei Lit, a single on Infinite Greyscale. In late 2020, Mouse on Mars were awarded the Holger Czukay Prize for their contributions to Cologne's innovative art and music scene. The following February, they released AAI, which featured NKishi, writer and scholar Louis Chude-Sokei, and the AI tech collective Birds on Mars. A sci-fi narrative of an artificial intelligence's development, the album prominently used custom-made speech modeling software. The following April saw the debut of Spatial Jitter, a light and sound installation at Munich's Kunstbau Lenbachhaus that Mouse on Mars designed to shift with the physical location of each listener. In May 2022, St. Werner teamed up with David Grubbs for Translations from Unspecified. The duo dug into its archives for its next project, which began with September 2023's Bilk. A pre-Vulvaland work originally created for an ambient radio program curated by Finnish label Sähkö Recordings and aired in Helsinki in 1994, it combined field recordings from a walk around Mouse on Mars' Düsseldorf neighborhood with electronics, guitars, and a Jew's harp. For Bilk's official release on Sonig, Toma, and St. Werner made small edits and additions to the piece.
© Heather Phares & Sean Cooper /TiVo


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