Free radicals

Mouse on Mars present positive Idiology

The German duo known as Mouse on Mars started composing electro-organic music in 1992, when, according to legend, Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner met at a death-metal concert in their native Germany. Since then, the Düsseldorf-based pair has left itself open to performing in theaters, museums or French houseboats (and they've done all three), or just rocking a living room, as long as there's some living going on in it.

Mouse on Mars' albums can be played anywhere there's some activity, because MoM compose environmental music without a specific environment in mind. Whether heard in dance clubs or while dusting, Mouse on Mars' sound — which incorporates techno, rock, jazz, drum 'n' bass, ambient, dub and syncopated skitter, sputter and sizzle — contains enough frequencies manifesting and mutating so frequently that almost any range of motion is within the range of Mouse on Mars' compositions.

Mouse on Mars' preoccupation with giving sounds space to stray and sway has resulted in their most robust songs so far. MoM's previous album, Niun Niggung, is an expertly tussled mess of textures bumping, bubbling and burping, but the duo recently topped themselves. Many artists claim to make a statement, but with their latest album, Idiology, Mouse on Mars spell theirs out.

By changing one letter in the word ideology, Mouse on Mars create an ideology that's more like an idiom — a manner of expression peculiar to a given group. Idiology refutes the notion that one's ideology and the way one identifies things needs a singular focus. With the title, they decry ideology while forging one of their own.

The music is as dense as the philosophy - MoM find rhythm through planned randomness. But for all its detail, Mouse on Mars' music is far from rigid, and contains all the absurdity MoM see in the idea of predictability being comfortable. Idiology collects 11 tracks of their off-kilter fairytales, where horn and harpsichord harmonies tug at the coattails of garbled alien transmissions and flatulent basslines.

If a track like the forceful breakbeat hybrid "Actionist Respoke" could be lumped into a genre, it might be called amorphous 2-step — the London sound of the moment, a hip-hop, R&B, drum 'n' bass and house amalgam. But then MoM mash up the recognizable characteristics, blurring the lines of genre enough that each listener might label MoM the tracks differently.

In a similar fashion, Mouse on Mars explore and exploit the distance from the studio to the stage, mashing up audiences' preconceptions of the effectiveness and aggressiveness of performing electronic music. From outside the MoM tour bus in Munich, Jan St. Werner attempts to explain the difference between the studio and live approach. "With the live thing you're so much in it and it's so immediate — it's just the way it is," he says. "Every mistake has to be taken the way it is and every statement you make is appearing and disappearing. It's different from the studio where you can reconsider things all the time and twist them and think them out. It's such a time-stretched process, different from the live thing, where every second counts. If something goes wrong you just go with it. With the studio you can prove yourself more the way you want based on decisions."

Over seven releases, Mouse on Mars have proven they can make great studio music. Now it's time to play a great gig. Live, MoM — with St. Werner on computers and keyboards, Toma on bass and electronics and adjunct member Dodo Nkishi on drums — are forced to give up the controlled comforts of the studio. But St. Werner claims MoM's idiology covers such contingencies.

"Our idea of space — of openness and awareness of what we do — allows for both sitting and listening and dancing but also walking and washing up and talking to others," says St. Werner. "There are endless possibilities and live is another thing. We get played in clubs where you dance and clubs where you sit, so that's already different. If people are open to what we do then I think they are open to whatever idea live we come up with, because that's the interesting thing — to follow the different designs and proposals."

Mouse on Mars don't so much stand by their sound as stand by their space. Their ideology is to make room for whatever peculiar notion they feel can liven up a room, whether it's appropriate for the environment or not. That's an idiology that leaves plenty of room for creative reinterpretation and leaves plenty for which to look forward.

Mouse on Mars play the PlanetJam Cotton Club Sun., June 10. Tickets are $12. Showtime is 8 p.m. For information, call 404-688-1193.??