A little mouse twitches its whiskers, opens its tiny lips, and squeaks forth some prospective pop that scuttles, bumps, hides, seeks, hacks, hurls, seesaws, and tee-hee-hees all the way home.
While an ampersand symbolizes one kind of collaboration, the “X” that links emamouse and yeongrak’s names marks this album as an exploration of the remix. ema assembled the release by listening through yeongrak’s extensive self-released discography and collecting specimens to rework relative to her own post-apocalyptic cartoon sound. The resulting petri-dish of songs toys with bits of yeongrak’s garbled juke, barely-there mutterings pitched to prepubescent heights, and freeform electro-acoustic collage, the latter of which, befittingly, sounds as if it’s leaching into my ears through a shared wall.
Both artists occupy plastic thrones of stardom in the dedicated network through which their releases circulate. This community might be comparable to the one surrounding jelly bracelets: youthful, incredibly loyal, and happy to unabashedly indulge in an aesthetic culture of fandom, which, especially in ema’s case, gains its traction through merchandise. (I have an emamouse t-shirt and have posted about it again and again, so I’m to be included in this mass of super fans.)
If you buy one of ema’s t-shirts and send her a selfie in the shirt, she will send you back a portrait drawn in her distinct manga style. Each time I see these portraits reposted in my Twitter feed, it feels like a particular instance of love, and ema’s work with this release feels similarly personalized and affectionate, although less one-to-one. Here, she challenges herself to engage in multiple, intertwined dialogues with her own creative practice, with her relationship to yeongrak’s back catalog, and with a more conceptual form of music making that I’ve not heard from her before now.
As she writes, “The work of yeongrak is like a foreign land and one’s internal organs. Both a deep relaxation and an ominous pleasantness miraculously coexist.” Tokyoite ema hears a kind of PC-based folklore, full of homely ballads and alien myths, in New Zealand-native yeongrak’s work, and when these sounds are placed in conversation with her own skittering rhythms, helium-heavy vocals, and signature quacking synth, the result attempts to create a “new foreign country” that they, and all of the rest of us involved in the digital dissemination of this work, can inhabit and develop. Utopias can only emerge out of collectivity, and considering Quantum Natives’s own efforts at world-making, mouth mouse maus adds solid acreage to QN’s cooperative, decentralized, and borderless biosphere.
As I click through QN’s world map with mouth mouse maus as my soundtrack, my thoughts seep to slime. Much of the album undulates like a wobbly dome of jello — mouse-shaped dome, slime green jello: a sickly sweet dessert. Too much sugar stings my tongue. Piled into my stomach, it bounces back up into my throat with a queasy smile — slime a kind of public bile made cute to the touch. ema and yeongrak twist this nausea in their fingers and let it sing in such a way that I want to swirl it around in my mouth for a while rather than swallow it back down. They splash around in sheets of slime as if in gorgeous waterfalls. We’re all getting slimed, but they’re the ones loving it the whole time.