The minimal cold-wave electronics and deadpan mantra-like crooning of Minnesotan John Maus first reached the attention of many with ‘Rights For Gays’, an is-he-for-real exhortation to progress “right now… and medical care for everyone”. Well, quite. On record a hypnotic, unsettling amalgam of Berlin Iggy intensity and former collaborator Ariel Pink’s warped lo-fi approximations of AM radio favourites, Maus live is an intense, shrieking force. Control if Neil Hamburger had played Ian Curtis, maybe, or Shape Up And Dance With Alan Vega. The extent to which his schtick is tongue-in-cheek (he’s a clever dude, lecturing in political philosophy at the University of Hawaii apparently) is a moot point, but there’s not much doubting the impact at close quarter.
Also on the bill, Plug (not to be confused with the old alter-ego of Luke Vibert) bring minimal bass-keys-drums post-punk with a bright pop sensibility and smart humour. Labelmates of Maus on Upset The Rhythm, their album is well worth checking out. Good stuff.
Around the time the subterranean critical mass started frothing at the mouth about Ariel Pink and his inspired dissolutions of genre via 4-track pop, John Maus, a high school soulmate of Pink originally from Austin, Minnesota, began spreading his own, more zoomed-in visions of musical truth: where Pink’s persona has always been as steeped in ambiguity as his productions are in sonic mucus, in the course of two albums and various tours Maus has made no hiding of the fact that he lives, breathes, shits and bleeds his music, its garish aesthetics and mantric lyrical sentiments merely serving as culturally unfettered signifiers towards the pursuit of something beautifully (and at times horrifically) real.
His third album is called “We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves”, and drops in June on Upset The Rhythm. Hear a track from it entitled “Quantum Leap” here.
Maus’s work is absurd, pure, compulsive, enigmatic, melancholy and derangedly addictive, rippling with likenesses to 80s beat & body pop, damaged nostalgia flick soundtracks, gothic synth magic and renaissance-era classical composition, all informed by an intriguing philosophical rigour (by day he is a political philosophy scholar), and, of course, showcasing his winning knack for singalong slabs of tune.
With muffled memory music one of the stylistic cause célèbres of the new decade, the time seems right for all due acclaim to come John Maus’s way … yet even now, on the cusp of wider recognition, he somehow seems to prowl off the hipster map, effortlessly both more human and more alien than any of his peers working in the echo-shadow of 20th century pop culture.
In live concert Maus becomes a screaming, mic-toting evangelist, compelled to solder his truth to the synapses of those assembled and bring us together in its wake. Get ready for one of the most intense shows of the year!
Plug are an articulate drums-and-also-bass duo from London who deal in heartily-voiced, compulsive melodies married to an incessant nodding groove. Comprising Sian Dorrer (vocals and drums) and Georgie Nettell (bass, keys and vocals), Plug construct minimal pop vignettes with bright, sumptuous basslines locking indelibly with crisp, taught drumming – a deceptively simple yet driving combination owing as much to hip-hop and dance as the sparse clatter of post-punk.
The Colonist is a strictly live project from Bristol-based polymath Matthew Cheney, pulling new magic, ethereal and propulsive, from decrepit synths and drum machines.