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by Seth Colter Walls

September 9, 2013

Mikel Rouse's Wild-Beat Art Pop

by Seth Colter Walls  |  September 9, 2013

As a post-minimal composer in 1980s New York, Mikel Rouse was probably the first conservatory-trained musician to rent out a Linn drum machine. His polyrhythmic programming of the device is still written about in classical music textbooks, as are his innovative multimedia operas, but Rouse hasn't limited his innovations to the theory crowd. The manic, competing beats in songs like "Professional Smile" and "Orson Elvis" are grafted to memorable pop hooks. David Byrne was an early admirer of the Rouse approach -- a song like "Plug Nickel" will tell you why -- and fans of Beck's more adventurous music should check out the complexity of the folky Corner Loading, Vol. 1 album (on which Rouse consistently sings and plays guitar in different meters).

Rouse has referred to his music as highly "structured pop," but whatever you call it, it's both catchy and worthy of sustained attention. Unfortunately, Rouse's innovative New Wave music from the 1980s, in the band Tirez Tirez (who opened for Talking Heads and shared a label with R.E.M.) is currently out of print. But the good news is that his most recent albums, like Recess and Boost/False Doors, have extended his legacy. Check the appended playlist for highlights from his recent decade of solo productivity, including the recent single "Ambulance Chaser."

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