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John Maus is a truly enigmatic musician. Broadly cut from the synth pop cloth, he’s fashioned the frosty minimalism of its fabric into a cloak of infinite meaning, genuine grace and absurdist humor over the course of three defining albums since 2006. His music is a highly mutable affair, whilst often described as retro-futurist on behalf of the 80’s drum machines and synth sounds employed, John’s music is more personal than the nostalgic re-tread implied. There’s a cinematic quality to his songs, with pathos conjured through propelling bass-lines, trailing arpeggios and of course his deeply resonant vocal. Moroder helped map out the territory but Maus is more interested in seeking cadence through his love of Renaissance polyphony and the experimentation behind post punk. It’s an amalgamation of musical ideas as radical as its intent. Maus is a “man out of time” trying to make sense of the inhumanity of our world through his mobilisation of the language of punk rock. His aim is true as he reaches for the seemingly impossible. It’s a want to emerge as part of greater multiplicity, to appear, to become, to connect that powers his songs and the man himself. It’s now been six years since the widely lauded 2011’s ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves’ appeared like a thunderbolt of maniacal energy and turned everyone’s heads. Now regarded an experimental pop classic, Pitiless Censors was a huge breakthrough for Maus as a recognised artist and led to a vast reappraisal of his past work. Debut album 2006’s Songs and the masterful follow up 2008’s Love Is Real sounded better than ever the second time round for this groundswell of new followers. After touring Pitiless Censors around the world and pulling together a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, Maus then returned to academic pursuits. In 2014, he was awarded a doctorate in Political Philosophy for his dissertation on communication and control. Shortly thereafter, he began building his own modular synthesizer, etching the printed circuit boards, soldering components, and assembling panels, until he had an instrument that matched his vision. With this prodigious task completed Maus turned his hand back to song writing and began work on what is now his fourth album proper Screen Memories. ‘Screen Memories’ was written, recorded, and engineered by Maus over the last few years in his home in Minnesota, known genially as the Funny Farm. It’s a solitary place situated in the corn plains of rural American Midwest. The landscape is as majestic as it is austere and inevitably some of the sub-zero winter temperatures creep into the songs as do the buzzing wasps of summer. Through the whole album Maus has an undeniable talent in grasping the mettle of each song, reaching within and building up a sincere core, before teasing out the edges in acknowledgement to the very ridiculousness of its existence. Rather than creating these songs through an enjoyment of the process Maus considers himself more in the role of someone discovering them buried just beneath the surface. Perhaps the songs presented here are the ones that mask his real intentions, Freud pressing record and turning the TV channel to snow. All we can be certain of now though is that John Maus is back and he sounds gloriously alive. The triumph of the human is upon us and all the false gods and bad jokes will be the first to fall.
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