Toronto native Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) has never shied away from speaking his mind, and has always held himself to higher-than-most standards when it comes to music production, so when news broke last week that he had, in a series of tweets, effectively disowned his new album W:/2016ALBUM/ due to it being "so fucking rushed/slapped together," it wasn't shocking so much as disappointing. Did the slumped mau5head on the cover of W:/2016ALBUM/ suddenly suggest the end of the mau5 as we know it?
Not quite. While the album is far from his best work (the disjointed opening track is a strong first clue), it still merits a listen. Its real value lies in the glimpse it gives listeners of where deadmau5 could go if he really wanted to — somewhere any electronic fan would willingly follow. Tracks "Snowcone" and "Whelk Then," singled out by Zimmerman as the only redeemable songs on the album, are a departure from the type of progressive tracks we've come to love and expect from him. The two songs are pared down, ambient and downtempo in nature, comparable to the richly textured soundscapes of Boards of Canada.
Together, they inject a breath of fresh air into the stuffy mau5head and give fans something to get excited about. He even recently hinted at taking his music in a different direction: "Maybe it's time… to just sit down, and work on this fabled 'album i like' thing I've been wanting to do for the past 10 years," he tweeted on November 20.
Tweets aside, W:/2016ALBUM/ isn't a write-off. Despite the "love/hate thing happening here," his sixth studio album still manages to convey the same levels of excitement in hearing new deadmau5 material as his previous records did. Songs like "Let Go (feat. Grabbitz)" and "Three Pound Chicken Wing" bring about little waves of welcome nostalgia that remind fans just why they started listening to deadmau5 in the first place. Because in the end, he's spent much of his career trying to avoid clichéd chord progressions and remain innovative and authentic — something deserving of respect in an industry where it's increasingly easy to become a button pusher.
Love him or hate him, deadmau5 has played a big role in shaping the last decade of electronic dance music and he deserves our faith for at least a little while longer. (Mau5trap)