Stream John Maus’ New LP ‘We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’
John Maus’s latest LP is full of warm and crystalline electronica.
Maus opens with a song every bit as full of shimmering melancholic romanticism as Cut Copy with “Streetlight.” The crystalline synth arpeggio twinned with the warm bassline is one for the ages.
“Quantum Leap” begins like a Joy Division track and returns to such tropes throughout the song, but Maus wisely deploys the beautiful synth sounds to take it into other sonic territory. It’s hard to deny that there isn’t an Ariel Pink aesthetic at play here, but Maus seems sincere in his lo-fi sound encased in clouds of reverb, while Pink’s verges on the ironic. “…And the Rain” doesn’t stray far from this aesthetic either, with one wondering if Maus will keep pouring on the vertiginous cavern sounds.
Then he blindsides the listener with “Hey Moon,” which is a synth ballad that has a baroque character to the keyboard playing, making it a stand-out whether Maus intended it to be so or not. The song’s not completely shed of the nostalgic lo-fi atmosphere, but it’s poignant experiment nonetheless.
“Keeping On” is where Maus separates himself from Ariel Pink as an electronic musician—he sounds completely natural and supremely-talented operating the keys, mod wheels, oscillators, filters, etc. The song drifts through Disco, New Wave and Post Punk sounds, and when Maus gives his voice a reverb-dripped chant in the chorus, he breaks free of the Ariel Pink aesthetic. If Maus would sing as he does in the chorus on a more regular basis, the effect would be mesmerizing.
Maus creates a rather disposable track with “The Crucifix,” but it only last for just over a minute. As noted in my review of the music video for “Head for the Country,” the song is very much a Human League doppelgänger, but satisfying nonetheless. “Cop Killer” takes its title from the Ice-T banned heavy metal album, with Maus hypnotically intoning—perhaps with some political force, though more likely irony—”Cop killer / Let’s kill the cops tonight / Kill them / Cop killer / Kill every cop in sight.”
“Matter of Fact” is another song that has its moments, though it again veers too close to the Ariel Pink formula. The same goes for most of “We Can Break Through.” But with album closer “Believer” Maus takes things in a more sublime and less-consciously lo-fi direction. It’s built on a motorik beat and elevated to ethereal heights with starlit sheets of synthesizers and a post-punk bassline that should give any listener goosebumps.
If Maus sticks with the brilliance of “Streetlight,” “Keep Pushing On” and “Believer” he’ll leave Ariel Pink in his vapor trail.