Approved: John Maus
By Aly Barchi | Published on Wednesday 16 November 2011
Not even The Guardian or New York Times, with their grating preoccupation with the portrait of John Maus as a scholarly recluse and modern pop curiosity, could blunt my very pure and simple love for his third LP, ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves’. Of course, the backstory – that ‘Pitiless Censors’ takes its name from a quotation by philosopher Alain Badiou, that Maus studied something clever in Switzerland, that his present musical methods stem from a mixture of medieval chord patterns and a mind-to-mind alliance with his one-time college contemporary Ariel Pink – does make for interesting reading. But none of that takes the fore when I’m appreciating the quiet beatitude of ‘Hey Moon’, the flickering sound silhouettes cast by ‘Street Light’, the ingenious waveform nudge of ‘Head To The Country’ or ‘Believer’, when Maus is just a sepulchral-voiced controller with his hands on all the dials.
On-stage, as I witnessed last night at London’s Heaven pre a headline slot by Washed Out, Maus is most definitely a hands-free entity. Clutching blindly at the abyss – the abyss being a pack of disorientated chillwave fans – he stalks about like the sole performer at a cracked karaoke bar; soaked in sweat, eyes screwed tight, self wholly sacrificed to the strain of bawling lyrics as backing music is blasted, ‘X-Factor’-style, from unseen speakers. The crowd seems split, swaying between awe and disbelief, reluctant to trust in the authenticity of what they’re seeing, waiting for Ernest Greene to restore calm.
If nothing else, Maus live is a spectacle unlike any other – part parody, part cop-out, part bold aesthetic experiment. But the music, I think, still sounds sublime.
You can see all this for yourself when John plays London’s Tuffnel Park Dome on 17 Nov. Failing that, let’s end on a hopeful note, with ‘Believer’.