Review: Deadmau5 – 4×4=12

Artist: Deadmau5
Album: 4×4=12
Genre: Electronica
Label: Ultra

Joel Zimmerman, better known by his stage name “Deadmau5,” is easily regarded as the hottest commodity in the house/dance community. After the fast-burning success of his first two albums, Random Album Title, and For Lack of a Better Name, the mau5 is continuing his tradition of glibly-titled releases with his third studio album, and most polished work to date, 4×4=12.

Pardon the pun, but Deadmau5 really “stepped” it up this time… Several of the tracks on the album reflect the sound qualities deadmau5 is famous for: rising synths, simple melodies and infrequent vocals; The most outstanding difference between 4×4 and previous works is his near abandonment of minimalism. Titles like “I said,” “Cthulhu Sleeps,” and, “Bad Selection” will entertain hardcore mau5 fans. What might make classic fans cringe, however, is Zimmerman’s obvious motion towards a broader audience by including his first foray into dubstep.

The album opens up with the powerhouse track “Some Chords,” which unfortunately leaves the rest of the album slightly lacking. The baroque melody immediately identifies the artist to familiar listeners, but the production level supersedes any of his previous work. New listeners will latch on more quickly to his collaborative tracks, “Sofi Needs a Ladder,” and the bouncy, daft-punk-esque “Animal Rights.”

On the whole, 4×4=12 is dynamically impressive, but weakly arranged. It seems as though all the pieces are there, but not in the right order. For example, “Raise Your Weapon” starts off with the delicate vocals of Greta Svabo Bech balanced by a piano melody that, in Deadmau5’ tradition, resolves with the barebones beauty of a classical choir. Then, out of nowhere… four minutes of one minute’s worth of dubstep smacks you in the face. Though Greta’s vocals do technically fit the groove, the seams where Zimmerman frankensteined the track together are glaringly visible to an active listener.
Sofi is aggressive and entertaining, especially on her featured track, but when it comes to “One Trick Pony,” only one word comes to mind: Linear. She had so many places she could have taken the song, but neglected to, leaving it repetitive and abrasive. A more dynamic vocal lead might have effectively balanced the avoidably stagnant beat, and after his largely public beef with dub legend Rusko, Deadmau5 could have benefitted from a more prolific first-stab at the dubstep crown. Unfortunately, Zimmerman, though very talented and innovative, seems to lack the “soul” that carries dubstep music up from its groovy reggae roots.

That having been said, I still find myself sing-humming nearly every track on the CD. 4×4=12 is catchy, and it serves its purpose perfectly. Zimmerman’s chord progressions convey a constant feeling of ascension that never seems to resolve, leaving the listener hanging in midair with a euphoric sense of auditory weightlessness. His music is as simple as it is evocative and almost spiritual. Deadmau5 never fails to impress in terms of innovation. And though 4×4=12 isn’t particularly remarkable, it is surely several notches above average. Oh, and just to save you the aneurism, the name “4×4=12” is a joke about conflicting tempos: a technique that deadmau5 exploits in many of his tracks.

Score: 7.5/10
Review written by: Jake White

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Whitelourn

    very informative!