German debutant takes the listener on a sweeping electronic Grand Tour, but bites off a bit more than he can chew.
Moritz Friedrich comes across as conspicuously blasé about the music he produces under the Siriusmo moniker. Not only does he claim that it takes a backseat to his other creative endeavors -- graffiti and illustration taking center stage there -- but he eschews playing live and has uncompromisingly labeled the majority of his back catalog "shit".
This image of Siriusmo as his own harshest critic is enforced from the very first moments of his sprawling debut album, Mosaik. Enthusiastic crowd cheers swiftly turn to slow-clapping and booing as the first isolated notes kick in. This discontent is abruptly drowned out by the pumping mission-statement of album highlight "High Together", but it's hard to forget that prologue over the course of an album that finds Siriusmo running the gamut of European contemporary electronic music, ostensibly in an attempt to see what sticks and silence the boos. It feels increasingly as if Siriusmo’s distaste for live performance, his dismissal of his musical achievements and his extremely fractured musical identity are all intimately linked: not only does Mosaik want to please everybody; it also genuinely doesn't seem sure what its strongest assets are.
And there are considerable assets here. "Sirimande" restlessly chops up rave and Balearic into an irresistible ADHD pinball assault, the aforementioned "High Together" is a slice of joyful churning house, while "Nights Off" combines blissful swells with a sugary naïve melody. The latter two, arguably the best moments on this full-length, will however already be familiar to followers of Siriusmo's progress: they appeared on the excellent 2009 The Uninvited Guest E.P. While that release had a vibrant assured coherency, however, Mosaik opts for a sweeping journey through European scenes, taking in everything from his home country's Kompakt label, through Warp and London’s dubstep culture, and a generous helping of Ed Banger. Mosaik has the feel of a kind of electronic Grand Tour, a 21st century plugged-in Coryat's Crudities. This makes for an understandably invigorating listen, but also means that every step of the way you are all too aware that someone else has already done this before, and indeed done it better.
"Bad Idea" combines guttural bass with bleak and reductive grime epithets about guns and bullets, but it falls short of the aggressive vitality of The Bug and ends up fulfilling its title as a buzzing irritant. "Feed My Meatmachine" almost feels like a parody of Vitalic's harsher moments. The combination of death-metal vocals, music-hall piano and Morricone whistling that are mashed together for the brief (and aptly named) "Peeved" could never have been anything other than a silly diversion. Siriusmo's guidebook is perhaps understandably strongest the closer to home he strays. "Einmal In Der Woche Schreien" could be a summery slice of distorted Jürgen Paape, while the brace of "Goldene Kugel" and "Signal" would both be creditable additions to the Modeselektor canon. Siriusmo was the first signing to the German duo's Monkeytown label, and the marriage of military percussion and subterranean bass to a dreamy synth radar blip that runs through "Signal" and the menacing motorik blare of "Goldene Kugel" owe a considerable debt to Monkeytown's honchos.
Generally, the weirder Mosaik gets, the more the cracks show. Safe ground for Siriusmo is post-Justice chopped-up synth grandeur, and for all the flights of fancy this is ultimately the grout that holds this mosaic together. And without spawning any real bangers, Siriusmo's generally pretty good at it. The album's best moment, though, is also its sweetest, calmest and most measured. The uncomplicated "Idiologie" clocks in at under three minutes, but the deliciously bobbing fairground synths map out a melody so winning that its progenitor don't dare mess with it. Too often on Mosaik, though, Siriusmo is guilty of over-egging the pudding.
Turn Mosaik up loud, and there’s no question you'll enjoy it, but it's hardly definitive. Siriusmo has decided to throw in bits of everything from disco to skweee and vocals in at least three languages without genuinely thinking about how they will mesh with his sound. It's not a subtle marriage; instead the genre delineations between songs are stark, and their stand-alone nature means that their derivatives are brought into sharp focus. With trademark self-deprecation, Siriusmo is widely quoted as saying that he employs "technical devices and a lot of fantasy to artistically cover up lacking musical abilities". Look at that from a different angle and all you've got is a passable definition of electronic music, but it also sums up Mosaik’s faults. The irony here though is that Siriusmo shows despite the bluster that he is a compelling enough producer not to need to distract the listener nearly as much as Mosaik does.