Lithops
Mound Magnet
2006
B



lithops is the aural representation of Jan St. Werner’s existential conflict. With Mouse on Mars, St. Werner and collaborator Andi Toma indulge their lurching and mechanical pop fantasies, while St. Werner’s work as Microstoria (in tandem with Oval’s Markus Popp) is all about the holism of nature, the embrace of chaos. On Mound Magnet, we find him somehow trying to reconcile both.

Track after track contains references to his guises, and while often one will rise to control a groove for a while, neither maintains the reins for long. Take “Opposite of Windward,” which ploughs the same fast-forward, up-an-octave smooth glitch that adorns much of Varcharz. From this opening track, a melodic progression unlike any on that record seems to tumble fully-formed out of the feedback—more a Lightning Bolt chorus than a Mouse on Mars groove.

It’s a sound that’s more likely informed by the uneasy sort of pastiche post-rock that gurgles and bubbles around the Microstoria catalog. Time and again, the rhythm-shunning Lithops id consistently undermines any groove that St. Werner’s super-ego may have planned. The Voordoms jam “Cephalopod” excepted, there isn’t that much especially new here, but St. Werner takes all of those familiar pieces of sound and jumbles them up in between the beats.

After the epic, multi-part “Stakes Barrier,” St. Werner begins to dip into the Mouse on Mars well more often, reaching for intentionally stilted beats of the sort he and Toma explored on Idiology. He begins to backtrack with a transition piece, “Peek,” a song seemingly dedicated to tearing down all the work he’s done with the first half of Mound Magnet (and Varcharz and Radical Connector and…). It’s not exactly business as usual, but the rest of the Mound Magnet is definitely confined to the same varieties of post-techno beats: like thumbing through old W-2s in your file cabinet, listening to the second-half MoM-isms or the almost-breakbeat in “Stakes Barrier” is dizzyingly familiar. It taxes the senses to make sense of the detached points of reference (to Mouse on Mars, to glitch, to drum ‘n’ bass, etc.) that constantly float in and out.

While it seems St. Werner is trying to find a way to happily settle on a level of chaos in his music, it’s obvious he hasn't found it. To his credit, he knows it isn’t quite as simple as F(X) = {Mouse on Mars} + {Microstoria} or G(Y) = {HOUSE} + {GLITCH}, and he’s found that at least he can play with those implications. He leaves us with trails of beats and snippets of corrupted melodies hung all over Mound Magnet, upside-down, inside-out. For what it’s worth, we probably only recognize patterns in the mounds of static adorning this, the most enervating of the Lithops records, because St. Werner wants us to find them. After all, there’s still a lot of Radical Connector left in the guy.



Reviewed by: Mike Orme
Reviewed on: 2006-11-10
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