Dimensional People ends up as uneven as it is uncompromising.
Mouse on Mars are purists, but only in the technical sense. The Düsseldorf duo always had a preference for live instrumentation and analog synths. Despite their appropriately otherworldly sound, their work hummed with a human warmth thanks to those strict values. But in terms of experimentation outside of being anti-digital snobs, Mars is the limit. Long stints working with Stereolab in the ‘90s and projects with Mark E Smith (RIP) in recent years have affirmed Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma as proud weirdos and musical gluttons. It’s no surprise then that Dimensional People pulls from a wide slate of sounds and brings along some surprising guests for the ride.
Dimensional People is nominally broken into 12 tracks, but don’t let that fool you. The entwining grooves really cut down the album to just four or five songs depending on how you keep track of the shifting rhythms and warping melodies. The opener, and title track, is the best example of Mouse on Mars’ hypnotic sessions, and how they effortlessly slide their guests into place. “Dimensional People (I-III)” is a steely slice of afro-beat, neatly propped up by late night sax sexiness. Chiming guitars roll into the fold, floating above a clattering mess of percussion that serves as a frizzed-out metronome. And it’s Justin Vernon of all people who pops up on this metallic jam, giving his trademark falsetto coo as the song swings into its second part. The song(s) are a dance floor triumph, even giving the audience a welcome cool down with “Part III,” mostly made out of ‘80s modular synths and Vernon burbling delightful gibberish. And how do you follow up Bon Iver crying nonsense lullabies? Pop off a dreamy rap banger. It’s wise-ass MC Spank Rock who takes the mic on “Foul Mouth,” rasping over wayward steel guitar and beautiful, sliced up vocal patterns out of a Gene Autry record.
Though the rest of the album is just as restless as its title tracks, Dimensional People never finds the same thrilling gear again, or at least not without the engine coughing. The wonky “Parliament of Aliens Part I” is filled with intriguing ideas: a mysterious gospel chorus, waning fiddle and creepy synths rising against the eardrums, but it never settles into anything other than a thought exercise. And, in a more minute way, this is the main problem with the rest of the album. Mouse of Mars will land on tastefully dancey sections but cloud out their genius with unneeded layers of fluff. The middle section of “Daylight” is a muscular piece of funk, but it is sandwiched between a gooey, undanceable intro and a spacey, energy bereft outro. Dimensional People doesn’t stutter back into the club until closer “Sidney in a Cup,” an admittedly excellent piece of swaying cheese, all campy harmonies, cha-cha drums and a chorus of “my lips, my hips, my nose.” After a bewildering, and often manic process, “Sidney in a Cup” is a delicious detour.
Dimensional People ends up as uneven as it is uncompromising, but that was likely the point. With BPMs this high, Mouse on Mars were looking to make you sweat until you hallucinated, then make your surreal state even weirder. But, as long as these two Düsseldorks keep making dancey bangers, who are we to complain?