Mouse on Mars

Niun Niggung (Thrill Jockey)

"Jan and Andi make the most bulbous sounds," once declared Mouse on Mars' record label, and no one has found a better word yet to describe the music of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma. It's bulbous in the way liquids bubble through the grease trap of a sink; bulbous in the way a tuba's fat tubes coil and convolute. If one could play music on the soft pop art constructions of Claes Oldenburg, the results would certainly be in league with Mouse on Mars' squishy songs. The fifth Mouse on Mars album, Niun Niggung, can inspire giggles because so many of the noises drip, trickle, and run through its grooves.

These noises are flatulent indeed, and it's almost impossible to distinguish electronically generated tones from real instruments. Whereas the band's first few albums exemplified the term Kraftwerkian, these German pioneers aren't in favor of putting guitars in the museum -- in fact, the first track, "Download Sofist," begins with a softly plucked acoustic. The effervescent "Yippie" trots along a ribbon of tooting, treated brass. "Mykologics" sounds like a leaf unfolding in a time-lapse video until a fanfare of insect horns and a faraway vocal chant infuse it with kinetic activity. "Pinwheel Herman" is the sort of dance music only miniature lawn gnomes could shake a leg to. On "Dispothek" tiny snippets of shortwave radio or air-traffic­controller text come strolling in from corners of the mix, assert themselves, then vanish like water on a hot griddle. Evocative titles like "Diskdusk" and "Booosc" seem like the product of benevolent, childlike robots. But instead of giving off that cold synthetic nip, these songs are warm, alive, and breathing.

When Niun Niggung finishes its slalom of bleeps and blips and lets out one final buuurp, you'll probably wonder -- Is the disc over, or is it time to empty the dishwasher? And it's always fun when that happens.

 
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