The live album is a tricky beast. Oftentimes it is valueless to all but the hardcore appreciators of the group or artist that puts it out (Do you care about the Horrible Repetitive Noise Band’s cover of Brian Eno’s "Dead Finks Don’t Talk" on its Live in Miami record if you haven’t been following the band since its early days when it was only releasing music on cassettes? Of course not). There are other pitfalls, too, such as sound quality, annoying crowds, track selection. Perhaps the three members of Mouse on Mars — Dodo Nkishi, Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner — knew this, and that’s why they avoided releasing any live material during their career. Over the last ten years, the three have made eight albums’ worth of adventurous, infectious electronic music. Word is that they’re also very good in concert, and this album only attests to that.
Except that it doesn’t feel like a live album at all. As the repetitively building rhythms of "Gogonal" drone on and ominous sounding synths jog over the top at various points, it’s impossible to tell that this wasn’t fine-tuned in the studio. Only when the sound of the crowd cut in before an excellent rendition of "Wipe That Sound" was I jarred back into reality. In fact, except for when Nkishi, Toma and St. Werner are improvising or throwing in various not-on-record flourishes (which all sound great), the between-song applause is the only indication that this isn’t another studio release from the German electronica outfit. In this way, Live04 operates more like a re-recorded "best of" set.
As such, the album receives a rare accolade in the world of live releases: I recommend it even for those who are unfamiliar with Mouse on Mars. The group has an intimidating catalogue, and Live04 can serve as an excellent entry point for the uninitiated. If the aforementioned party vibe of "Wipe That Sound," the glitch-dance, screaming wonder of "Actionist Respoke," and the churning "Mine Is in Yours" aren’t enough to convert a new listener, nothing else in the group’s impressive lot of back material will.
For those who have been following the band, Live04 might even transcend its predecessors. After all, why would you buy vegetables at a store when you have a garden in your back yard? Surprising as it may be, Live04 challenges almost any Mouse on Mars studio record as far as consistent quality is concerned. And that’s about the highest compliment you can pay a live album.