Release Date: Jul 17, 2012
Record label: Ribbon Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There is obsessive fandom and then there is unguarded, shameless devotion. Mausspace is a place for the latter. Launched in October 2007 by three John Maus obsessives, the website is a message board and unofficial news source dedicated to the lo-fi pop eccentric, philosopher, and former Haunted Graffiti member. Prior to Maus' breakthrough record, last year's We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, fans would often happen upon the site while scouring the web for his demos, only to discover they actually were not alone in their respective Maus worship.
“Mother fuck, the fear is back,” comes the cyborg croon of John Maus on 2003’s “The Fear.” And he sounds pretty damn excited about that, or at least so far as a macabre philosopher can. A Collection of Rarities... is rife with party favors excepted from 2007’s Love Is Real and last year’s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, reinforcing the scope of Maus’ songcraft.
After such an awesomely cryptic and baffling title as 2010’s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, John Maus’s latest material being dubbed A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material seems a little bit on-the-nose. Maybe not as much as his 2006 album Songs, but there seems to be very little to dissect within the name A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material, little unifying these brightly hued nuggets, little mystery to their arrival to us in the digital age as a packaged commodity. Odd for a man who weaves deep semiotic layers into his music, both physically and discursively, inspiring the kind of obsessive fanbase that might sideline as groupies for Slovenian pop-philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a similarly twitchy and somewhat elusive interview subject known for wild tangents and bold declarations.
John MausA Collection Of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material[Ribbon; 2012]By Colin Joyce; July 26, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhether carefully constructed artifice or whether the legitimate product of living on a different plane than much of humanity, the thought process behind the character, the myth, the man John Maus has long remained largely impenetrable. If he’s not vehemently dismissing independent record stores in interviews, he’s sending 40,000 word manifestos to blogs in response to satirical open letters. He’s working on his PhD.
In 2001 Belgian europop group Ian Van Dahl released the infuriating ‘club classic’ ‘Castles In the Sky’. Nine years later, gloomy American synthpop musician John Maus records a song called ‘Castles In the Grave’. The two songs are rather different but both sum up perfectly the intentions of the artists in question. John Maus makes pop music, dance music even.
Dark electro-pop maniac John Maus met almost across-the-board critical disdain with his first few albums, building a small but devoted cult following but failing to break through as a more widely accepted outsider artist until 2011's more realized We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves made some critics change their minds about Maus. That album's cold sheen and sometimes oddball updates on obscure '80s synth pop sounds didn't stray too far stylistically from earlier Maus albums, but something about its character was more consistent and digestible than the sometimes scattered feel of his first two records. Where those could feel zany or annoying, Pitiless Censors felt serious and deliberate even in its weirdest moments.
Even in the well-stocked haberdashery that is popular music, John Maus is cut from pretty strange cloth. Sometime keyboardist for Animal Collective and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Maus – by day, a philosophy professor from Minnesota – claims inspiration from Gregorian chant, critical theory, and classical composers Handel and Schoenberg. The charts, as you might expect, do not tremble at his approach.
Far from a footnote release, this is more valuable material from Maus. Charles Ubaghs 2012 John Maus is a serious believer in pop music. His slant isn’t what you normally hear in the charts: hypnotic, lo-fi synth melodies and echo chamber vocals are unlikely to ever dent the top 40. But behind these retro overtones is a desire to explore our modern relationships with pop, and its impact on our wider philosophical and cultural lives.
John Maus is all about history. When the avant-garde electro-pop eccentric isn’t in the studio, he’s in a classroom, studying and teaching philosophy, using ideas from generations past to help sculpt the base for his own compositions. He absorbs sounds from baroque and medieval composers, adding yet another layer of archival depth to his sound.