Styles: indie electronic, electro-acoustic
Others: The Books, The Notwist, Múm
As one half of the duo Tonetraeger, Torsten Mauss has previously released an album of engaging and refined electronic pop. Now, working solo under the moniker TG Mauss, he has crafted another album that comes very near to being one of the finest indie electronic releases of the year. Mechanical Eye, like many of the more acoustically-oriented electronic projects of late, has a very subdued quality to it, making it harder to label as pop. Instead of begging a head bob or a chorus sing-a-long, these delicately constructed tracks shimmer with a beauty bordering on the pristine, a quality that acts as both a virtue and a detriment. While the album will reward the eager listener with a musical experience both lovely and soothing, these effects are not far removed from those of other practitioners of the indie electronic genre — particularly The Books and The Notwist — making Mauss' prospects of distinguishing himself from the pack a bit harder.
"Kontiki" begins with apprehensively plucked acoustic guitar juxtaposed with unidentifiable (but certainly electronically manipulated) chirping and squeaking. Soon these sounds are joined by xylophone and vibraphone. Once Mauss's restrained and contemplative voice enters the mix, a lushly pastoral mood has been created, and the vocals seem to ride the gentle current. His voice only appears on roughly half the tracks, and with its gently breathy and slightly Germanic intonation, it fosters a sense of calm. Still, my favorite moments throughout tend to be the instrumental tracks like "Wood and Flowers" and "Bay Shore." One of the more unique ones is the mid-album "Pacific." Built upon a foundation of a simple electronic beat laced with mild squiggles, the track has a playful yet melancholic tone that I've seldom heard before — sort of like Mouse on Mars floating about on a grey-outlined cloud of Prozac. Following "Goodnight," a false closing track that bids the listener farewell, Mauss cleverly announces a bonus song by way of the pleasing sound of a needle being dropped on a record. The unmistakable sound of revolving vinyl gives way to electric organ, piano, flute, soft brass, and hushed vocals intoning that the serenader loves you and wants to be with you. In an almost last-minute maneuver, it feels like Mauss is making the attempt to distinguish himself from the rest of the indie electronic scene by doing a little classic soul-bearing. And even if the cynic in me suspects such emotion is a gimmick, I'm glad to say that it still works.
2. Wood and Flowers
3. Mechanical Eye
4. Bay Shore
5. The Old Song
8. Places to Go
10. It Lies Within
11. Looking Glass