Deadmau5 releases a new four-track EP, The Veldt, today via Ultra Music -- the first in a series to be released, leading up to his fourth full-length record scheduled to arrive later in 2012. It's already been a high-profile year for the acclaimed progressive-electro house producer.
While well-established as the biggest and one of the most respected electronic producers, his appearance at the Grammys in February with the Foo Fighters felt like a new and slightly surreal career apex. It was the first time electronic music has been spotlighted on the show. And with the whole EDM tsunami showing no signs of abating, his 2008 breakthrough album Random Album Title is now increasingly viewed as the catalyst behind the entire movement.
Yet Deadmau5, a 31-year old Canadian born Joel Zimmerman, is far from just the obedient poster-boy of North American EDM. During the past year, he has publicly attacked Ultra Festival for its non-curated line-ups, reinforced his opinion that DJs are just "play/stop/pitch" merchants and called Madonna out for her embarrassingly shameful "Has anyone seen Molly?" comment. Within the depoliticized and lucrative world of commercial EDM, it's as refreshingly militant and discontent as anything you'll ever hear.
This was further illustrated only last Friday when he posted a semi-controversial blog, entitled "we all hit play" in which he rallied against the perceived notion of electronic dance music containing any kind of dynamically "live" element. To quote:
i just roll up with a laptop and a midi controller and "select" tracks n hit a spacebar. ableton syncs the shit up for me... so no beatmatching skill required. "beatmatching" isnt even a fucking skill as far as im concered anyway.
Views such as this have made him a relatively polemic figure within the scene, yet what can't be discounted is the immense popularity of his studio productions and mind-blowing, visually stunning live shows. In fact, one can't help wishing that behind the on-stage mouse head and off-stage baseball-cap wearing rants, more attention be diverted toward the actual music. It has been his countless and consistent array of huge tracks like "Ghosts 'n' Stuff," "I Remember," "Strobe," and "Raise Your Weapon" that have been the foundation of his rise. This series of EPs should hopefully offer the return of complete focus upon Joel Zimmerman's meticulous studio productions.
Opening title track "The Veldt" [feat. Chris James] has quite the 21st century digital conception back-story: Deadmau5 created the core instrumental, uploaded the track to SoundCloud, and was then lobbied by fans via Twitter about a vocal version of the track fan Chris James had posted. Deadmau5 heard the version, initiated a collaboration, and the rest is history. Oh, and this whole process was all streamed live, the original backing track was inspired by the recently deceased Ray Bradury and if you've got a spare eleven minutes then check out the live stream of Deadmau5 putting the collaboration together here.
All very nice and modern, and fortunately, it's a stellar track. It opens with a highly intricate tribal percussive beat that seamlessly develops a smooth trance-infused vibe after a few minutes. It's a move away from his heavier sounding recent songs, and a retreat towards something more considered and progressive, enriched with a sense of expansive and textured compositional scope. Chris James' vocal enters and his wistful slightly throaty delivery works well. It all fits together fluidly, and the building synths, smooth kick patterns, and simmering ambience all ultimately feel like a reminder of the Deadmau5 of old.
The second track "Failbait," featuring Cypress Hill, couldn't be more different. He throws down an old-school bass-heavy hip-hop beat while B-Real, Sen Dog, et al lay down some rhymes about getting high. It sounds radically dissimilar from anything he has previously released, but despite the tightness of the production, it still has a sort of throwaway experimental vibe. It's probably just a one-off dalliance with something different rather than a hint at moving toward something definitely more eclectic.
The final two tracks are remixes of the title track. First London electro-crew Freeform Five apply some warped beats and Flying Lotus-esque avant-bass to the track. It's somewhat of a revelation, bringing out some abstract experimental layers from the track's foundation. Tommy Trash's remix is more of a faithful straight-up club ready banger. With its standard euphoric trance build and electro-drop, you can imagine it will be the version that DJs around the world adopt and will probably be played at a lot at EDM festivals around the world this summer.