Maus has always been something other – an enigma bundled in unassuming strands of Oxford cloth, baiting your expectations and then blowing past them with an acerbic beauty. In the past he’s issued albums that cut to the bone, gnawing on the gleaming remains of your toughest sinews. His synthpop was spare and his shows even more-so – a man with a CD player publicly crumbling at the seams for the audience’s benefit. His songs were intense, but not altogether without a shining shard of pop lodged in their throats, a scratch that was never quite satisfied but always present. Now he’s crossed out of the catacombs of solitary, tortured synth and brought on a band, but his vision remains consistent as a bleak acid bath of sound.
He’s working his way out of a hiatus of sorts, Maus is back and while at heart he’s his same old self, he’s racheted up the production surrounding his dystopian stranglehold. As his recent gig at Basilica Soundscape proved, his addition of a full band has stoked the fire present in his songs full force. Where once he was an aching nerve, raw and scraping at the subconscious, now he’s taking the minimal wave vision of sinister synth to a new level. Screen Memories is Maus blown up into massive retro-futurist heights – throbbing with distended basslines, surreal synths and Maus’ own voice echoing around the sphere, equal parts dream-struck (“Decide Decide,” “Sensitive Recollections”) and perturbed (“The Combine,” “Pets”). Something tells me there’s a larger patchwork at play in the fact that the universe has delivered a new Blade Runner and John Maus record in the same slice of time, but we’re all probably best to stay out of whatever wormhole opened its maw to deliver tandem poles of glistening futurist melancholy anyhow.
The album arrives just as the idea of sinking back into an oil slick of anxious, seething irritation seems like the only option. If there were an artist for our times, it’s Maus. The album is twitching, roiling, and constantly assaulting the senses. It’s as much a reflection of daily life in a world where the news cycle one-ups itself with horrors for clicks and pain for pay as anything might claim to be. Maus’ brand of disembodied pop is a kind of salve, but only so much so in that you know that he’s feeling the slow, anxious burn run up the back of his spine as well. He’s a compatriot in anguish who can sometimes remind you that there are slight slivers of beauty in that polluted sky, but more often than not he punctuates the pain with a reminder that on top of your petty list of worries, your pets are going to die before you. Maus gets it. We’re all screwed, lets dance out some pain.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.