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23 June, 2014@5:19 am

As one of the frontrunners of the stateside electronic music explosion, deadmau5 was among the first to sign a lucrative Las Vegas deal, setting an industry-wide trend of which many others would follow suit. Very quickly, we began to see the industry burn itself out, as artists copied each other’s formulas with played out sounds and styles, virtually killing a once cool, groundbreaking new sound.

That is where it all went wrong, at least in the eyes of deadmau5, who in the last few years has trolled just about every other major name or brand in dance music. Never one to hold his tongue, he speaks his mind, making many enemies in the process. When you pull back and look at the big picture, it’s as if deadmau5 is trying to make a bold statement to the rest of the artists under the “EDM” umbrella: “That is not what I do.”

His behavior over the last year or so held a high risk/reward ratio, but like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, his shunning of the EDM genre has paid off in spades. With a title that’s hard to pronounce, and song titles even harder, on while (1<2), he’s created one of the most inaccessible albums of the year, yet quite easily the best.

If you tried to listen to while (1<2) on a Friday night on your way to the club, you’re going about it the wrong way. Clocking in at almost two-and-a-half hours, the double-disc endeavor is a heavy plate, yet one that is brilliantly realized as a whole. Instead, trying putting this on as the soundtrack to lonely, late night drive down a lost highway, or as the background music to your favorite video game. (This critic doesn’t own anything close to a Purrari, so I put it on while I finished the co-op DLC for Portal 2 that’s been nipping at my side for the last few months, and it worked oh-so perfectly.)

Mostly instrumental, it’s hard to put into words what the album’s standout moments are, as it instead should be taken in as a whole. While we’ve become a generation that skips-to-the-drop and writes 140 character “album reviews” after one listen, this can be quite an undertaking, but it can be split up into its two halves.

The first disc is executed flawlessly, from it’s opening melodic moments of the ethereal “Avaritia”, which subtly comes full circle at the end of the disc on “Gula”. This trick is pulled again on the second disc, as “Coelacanth” is split between the beginning of while (1<2) and the end. Much like on J Dilla’s Donuts, it’s a brilliant way of calling back to the beginning of the project, and bringing it all together as a whole, as the album’s title – which in programming language means “to loop indefinitely” – suggests.

It’s no coincidence that this album features two collaborations with Trent Reznor, as previously released tracks from Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels are remixed by deadmau5, and inserted into the tracklist. This might seem like a random event to some, but these two moments are expertly placed, and are in key with the sequence of the rest of the album’s tracks. A closer listen will reveal that much of the while (1<2) tracklist is built around these two, lone vocal moments, both of which fit perfectly here.

Trent’s influence is heard throughout, as deadmau5 employs somber pianos all over the album, on songs like “Creep” and “Gula”, both of which defy expectation with complex, jaw-dropping levels of drum programming. Other times, songs like “Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer” and “Terror In My Head” will go off into deep space, then kick back in when you least expect it. Or he’ll just keep it super-chill, almost channeling Zero 7, on songs like “Monday” or “Somewhere Up Here”. Be patient, let the man do his thing. Once that beat kicks in, the payoff is that much more rewarding.

As an added bonus, the digital version of the album includes two hour long mixed versions of each disc, which this critic is now itching to hear, after reviewing the hard copy.

When the last track, the funky “Seeya” (feat. Colleen D’Agostino) hits, it might seem like a strange inclusion, but this is essentially deadmau5 doing a George Jefferson walk out of the building, with a confidence and swagger that says he has pretty much made everyone else look like assholes.

And in a word, he has. He brilliantly trolled his competitors, with many whom took the bait, and then followed up with a double album that is light years ahead of what most everyone else is doing. While deadmau5 has successfully splintered off from a genre he helped define on while (1<2), he’s done so with some of his best material yet. Well played, sir.

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