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John Maus’ excellent new LP ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves’


 
Sometime Ariel Pink cohort, and an undoubted forefather of the chillwave phenomenon, John Maus has just released his new album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves on the evergreen independent label Upset The Rhythm.

Isn’t it great when someone you really want to like is actually someone you really do like? Because if John Maus wasn’t as good as he actually is, I would be seriously pissed off that someone else had nicked my idea of doing for synth-pop what Portishead have done for spy soundtracks and torch songs. Even moreso than Ariel Pink, Nite Jewel or anyone else on the haunted-call-it-what-you-like-scene John Maus seriously ticks my boxes. For the uninitiated, it’s pretty simple. Maus takes synth-pop and squeezes it through a lo-fi, shoegazey filter until it comes out the other side dripping in an unreal atmosphere. Imagine OMD on 33rpm, or the soundtrack to a long forgotten 80s art film you saw on cable one night, multiply it to the power of a bongs-and-mushrooms trip, and you’re nearly there. It’s so spectral it’s as if you have dreamt it before. In fact maybe I didn’t invent this idea and it’s all just aural deja-vu.

Fans of Maus’ previous work won’t be disappointed with We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves. In it he retains all the core values of his last album, the officially awesome Love Is Real, but now the sound and the songs have had a wee tightening up. But don’t worry yourselves with thoughts of “sellout” - where before the lo-fi nature of the recordings created a dank haze the listener had to aurally peer through, this new, slightly more clean approach gives room for the individual parts to breath. Being able to distinguish them in the mix in no way detracts from their shimmering nature and actually adds to their power. There are less tracks than before, and the running time is just over half an hour. There is little over-indulgence here - and that is a very good thing. From the Upset The Rhythm website:

Pitiless Censors’ as an album displays a more delicate touch than its predecessors. “Hey Moon” is John’s first duet, performed with Molly Nilsson, who originally wrote the song. It’s a serene elegy that subtly weaves an impression of nocturnal loneliness and romantic dreams.

Closing track “Believer” is equally evocative with its bells, choral soaring and echoing sentiment. Of course, a John Maus album wouldn’t be a John Maus album without the same anthemic genius and dark humour that we’ve seen previously with songs like “Maniac” and “Rights For Gays” and this new album finds its succour in “Cop Killer”. The eerie waltz-time offspring of Body Count’s controversial 90s protest track, it is dystopian, bleak and ridiculous and, in short, classic Maus.

Unlike the last two albums, ‘Pitiless Censors’ looks towards the future in all its absurdity. It’s a record where promise takes the lead for the first time, providing a counterpoint to John’s default existential calling. The cover of “Pitiless Censors” depicts an airbrushed lighthouse, thrashed by wave after wave, bringing to mind Beckett’s quote “Unfathomable mind: now beacon, now sea.”

And one final thought -  the slightly grandiloquent title undoubtedly has a proper explanation (Maus is a philosophy professor) but maybe it’s also a subconscious pitch to have his music featured in the work of Adam Curtis? It’s definitely worth a shot, as the two would go beautifully together.

John Maus - “Believer” (available for free download here)
 

 
John Maus - “Cop Killer”
 

 
John Maus - “Matter Of Fact”
 

 
John Maus - “Keep Pushing On”
 

 
You can pre-order We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves on vinyl from Upset The Rhythm. For more info on John Maus,visit this page.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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06.21.2011
09:14 pm
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Haunted Retro Part 2: Nite Jewel, Desire & Italians Do It Better
01.20.2011
11:29 am
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In the last article I set-up the parameters of what I have coined the “Haunted Retro” sound, and looked at Ariel Pink and his friends John Maus and Gary War. But that was all very phallocentric really, so this time I am covering the female-led bands in this imaginary “scene”.

Nite Jewel

Well, it’s not so imaginary, as a lot of these artists have worked together and definitely share some aesthetic and musical qualities. For instance L.A.‘s Nite Jewel have worked with John Maus and Haunted Graffiti member Cole MGN in the past. It’s not hard to see or hear why. They both record to 8 track tape using analogue and classic FM synths (like Roland Junos) and both have a slightly surreal, daydreamy vibe. But while Maus could very roughly be described as “synth-pop”, Nite Jewel make something that is more like “white-girl-soul”. They have recorded a cover of MOR-period Roxy Music and have a definite Fleetwood Mac-on-more-downers vibe. Being largely the work of one woman (Ramona Gonzales) Nite Jewel recently released the Am I Real? EP on the American Gloriette label, whose lead track “We Want Our Things” is a good snapshot of their sound.

Nite Jewel “We Want Our Things”
 

 
Nite Jewel “What Did He Say”
 

 
Nite Jewel “Want You Back”
 

 

Desire & Italians Do It Better after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.20.2011
11:29 am
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Wayne Coyne directs Ariel Pink’s ‘Round And Round’
01.19.2011
09:20 am
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Another “Haunted Retro” video - yet more no budget fun, different to yesterday’s Gary War clip, but complimentary. This was directed by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, when Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti supported them on a US tour last year. It was shot on an iPhone and after-effected by George Salisbury of Delo Creative. All notes for this video say the effects don’t come through fully due to YouTube bitrate-compression. Trippy!
 

 

You can find this tune on the latest Haunted Graffiti album Before Today (4AD). This short spell of “Haunted Retro” concludes with tomorrow’s post, part two of the made-up genre overview with Nite Jewel, Glass Candy and more.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.19.2011
09:20 am
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Gary War ‘Highspeed Drift’
01.18.2011
07:02 am
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I deliberately avoided putting this video in yesterday’s Haunted Retro post because I think it deserves a post all of its own. It represents visually what War, Pink et al represent musically. It’s indecipherable without being shoe-gaze, it’s psychedelic without sounding like it came from the Sixties. It’s lo-fi, it’s esoteric, it’s fun - everything this imagined genre should be. It’s from the album Horribles Parade on Sacred Bones, which you can get here, and if you want to hear more here is the Gary War MySpace. Broadcast fans will find much to like in this:
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.18.2011
07:02 am
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Haunted Retro part 1: Ariel Pink, John Maus & Gary War
01.17.2011
08:00 am
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What is “Haunted Retro”? It is hypnagogic music. It is the sound of the future as heard in the past. It is children hiding under bedsheets with AM radios, dialling through the airwaves til they find the sacred music that will sweep them far away. It is the music of your dreams, even your nightmares. just before the alarm wakes you up and your memory is wiped.

Ok, so “haunted retro” doesn’t exist. I made it up for the purposes of this article, and as an excuse to write about Ariel Pink and his pals. But hey, as a term it works! Because, while these acts I am going to write about share certain lo-fi techniques and nostalgic sensibilities, they are much more than simple pastiche merchants trying to relive an imagined past. Akin to bands like Portishead sampling 60s spy soundtracks and putting them in a different context, haunted retro artists cannot help taking their influences and molding them into something new. Something that feels warm and cozy like we’ve heard it before, but with a deep and disturbing uncertainty at its core. It’s beautiful, it is uncanny, but it’s not quite right.

ARIEL PINK
 

 
Unquestionably Ariel Pink is the leader of this whole “movement”. An outsider from the outset, Mr Pink is finally coming to gain the respect he deserves in the industry after putting out music for the last 10+ years. Much of this is down to his current act Haunted Graffiti and their album Before Today (4AD 2010), in which he has reigned in his more obscure tendencies, and whose output has subtle shades of the Doors, 10CC and even mid 80’s Fleetwood Mac. But his early work is worth checking out too, and his choice of instrumentation (analog synths and vintage drum machines) and recording techniques (8 tracks and plenty of hiss) have been influential on many new acts. In fact, to some folks (me included) discovering Ariel Pink and his music is akin to a spiritual revelation. Music really lacks truly talented idiosyncratic oddballs like this. At a time when the mainstream is playing weirdo dress-up, Ariel Pink is the real deal. Check out the video for “Kate I Wait” which is both ridiculous and sublime:
 
Ariel Pink “Kate I Wait” 

 
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Bright Lit Blue Sky”  

 
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Life In LA”  

 
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Beverly Kills”  

 

John Maus and Gary War after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.17.2011
08:00 am
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