John Maus

S&S Presents

John Maus

Conquer Monster, Muzzle Tung

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

8:00 pm

$16 ADV / $18 DOS

This event is 21 and over

John Maus
John Maus
John Maus is a truly enigmatic musician. Broadly cut from the synth pop cloth, he’s fashioned the frosty minimalism of its fabric into a cloak of infinite meaning, genuine grace and absurdist humor over the course of three defining albums since 2006. His music is a highly mutable affair, whilst often described as retro-futurist on behalf of the 80’s drum machines and synth sounds employed, John’s music is more personal than the nostalgic re-tread implied. There’s a cinematic quality to his songs, with pathos conjured through propelling bass-lines, trailing arpeggios and of course his deeply resonant vocal. Moroder helped map out the territory but Maus is more interested in seeking cadence through his love of Renaissance polyphony and the experimentation behind post punk. It’s an amalgamation of musical ideas as radical as its intent.

Maus is a ‘man out of time’ trying to make sense of the inhumanity of our world through his mobilisation of the language of punk rock. His aim is true as he reaches for the seemingly impossible. It’s a want to emerge as part of greater multiplicity, to appear, to become, to connect that powers his songs and the man himself.

It’s now been six years since the widely lauded album We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves (2011) appeared like a thunderbolt of maniacal energy and turned everyone’s heads. Now regarded an experimental pop classic, Pitiless Censors was a huge breakthrough for Maus as a recognised artist and led to a vast reappraisal of his past work. Debut album Songs (2006) and the masterful follow up Love Is Real (2007) sounded better than ever the second time round for this groundswell of new followers. After touring Pitiless Censors around the world and pulling together a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, Maus then returned to academic pursuits. In 2014, he was awarded a doctorate in Political Philosophy for his dissertation on communication and control. Shortly thereafter, he began building his own modular synthesizer, etching the printed circuit boards, soldering components, and assembling panels, until he had an instrument that matched his vision. With this prodigious task completed Maus turned his hand back to song writing and began work on what is now his fourth album proper Screen Memories.

Screen Memories was written, recorded, and engineered by Maus over the last few years in his home in Minnesota, known genially as the Funny Farm. It’s a solitary place situated in the corn plains of rural American Midwest. The landscape is as majestic as it is austere and inevitably some of the sub-zero winter temperatures creep into the songs as do the buzzing wasps of summer.

Screen Memories unfolds like a pageant, with its variety of songs tendering sunshine and shadow throughout. “The Combine” leads the procession with an apocalyptic stateliness all of its own. Clusters of chords dart between the solid rhythm track and artfully chimed bells. “It’s going to dust us all to nothing, man” intones Maus assuredly, “I see the combine coming”. Tracks like “Sensitive Recollections” and “Walls of Silence” overflow with the elegiac splendor we’ve become accustomed too from Maus’ previous work, at once mournful, yet full of redemption. Whilst “Find Out” is a persistent thrill ride of guitar histrionics and instructive demands amidst the sputtering drum machines. “Over Phantom” channels a similar perpetual energy with its hyperactive shifts of harmony and grand flourishes of swirling echo. “I am a phantom over the battlefield” booms Maus miles above the vast acres of dazzling bright melody. Many of John’s lyrics adopt this Spartan approach, yet their reiteration throughout the song bears up with their meaning shifting through repetition. “Teenage Witch” and “Pets” deploy a similar tactic, the latter teaming up one of John’s most droll lyrics with a colossal bass figure integrally linked to the song as a whole by way of forgotten thematic devices such as augmentation, stretto, and inversion. The lyrics at the end of the track underscore the album’s eschatological bent, “standing between time and its end.” “Decide Decide” finds Maus in dreamier climes, its arrangement of drums and exquisitely eddying keyboard lines tumble evocatively into huge oceans of ambience. Comparably quixotic synth-drifts come to the fore on “Edge Of Forever” too, the song sounding as if it was beamed in from a distant celestial sphere. “Touchdown” meanwhile is a great example of how Maus builds apprehension within his songs, it’s a primed and focused anthem, all scintillating keys and monumental beat. The tension only breaks once for a decidedly ebullient interlude with Maus echoing commands to “forward drive across the line!” That same feeling of your heart-racing away from you is also present in the taut track “The People Are Missing” (the only condition upon which any real politics can be founded), which captures some of the intensity and passion of John’s frenzied live performances.

“Bombs Away” draws the album to a close. The track sounds like a chase becoming a hunt and was co-written by Matt Fishbeck and Ariel Pink (whom Maus used to play with in Haunted Graffiti). Through the whole album Maus has an undeniable talent in grasping the mettle of each song, reaching within and building up a sincere core, before teasing out the edges in acknowledgement to the very ridiculousness of its existence. Rather than creating these songs through an enjoyment of the process Maus considers himself more in the role of someone discovering them buried just beneath the surface. Perhaps the songs presented here are the ones that mask his real intentions, Freud pressing record and turning the TV channel to snow. All we can be certain of now though is that John Maus is back and he sounds gloriously alive. The triumph of the human is upon us and all the false gods and bad jokes will be the first to fall.
Conquer Monster
Conquer Monster
Conquer Monster combines the warm analogue hum of vintage synth rock, the pulsing club beats of modern electronica, and the nostalgic 8-bit sounds of the 1980s into their Sci-Fi space jams. Their dynamic live performances include a backdrop of glitched-out and well-worn VHS videos while their music waxes and wanes from dystopian ambiance to punchy dance-floor pop. Conquer Monster’s style caters to visual artists, audiophiles, and dance club enthusiasts alike, which is why in May 2014 they were featured in SLUG magazine’s local showcase, “Localized”.

In high school Joshua Faulkner started modifying obsolete computing equipment into musical instruments and Daniel Romero started collecting vintage synths. However, it wasn’t until 2013, ten years later, that they teamed up to form Conquer Monster. “It was clear from our first jam session that we had something worth pursuing,” recalls Joshua, “Daniel and I were perfectly in sync with the direction we wanted to go with our music.” By mixing Daniel’s warm and spacey ambient pop with Joshua’s gritty, monophonic, 8-bit melodies, they are able to create music that is different and appealing to indie rock fans, analogue synth-heads, and the dance party crowd.

Conquer Monster is currently developing a concept album based on a futuristic graphic novel that Joshua is writing. “Since we have been writing music within the concept of the comic book, our songs have began to deviate away from a typical pop structure and towards a more open form which allows us to tell a story without the use of lyrics,” says Joshua. Their songs often begin with warped, ambient, Sci-Fi pads overlain with samples of math and science lectures which transition magically into bass-heavy, pulse-thumping, dance songs; keeping the crowd on their feet, literally and figuratively. “I’m continually amazed at how cool it is for me to write songs for this project, and then watch them blossom into full fruition through Conquer Monster. I've never experienced anything like this before, and it's a feeling I truly value,” Daniel articulates.

Conquer Monster loves playing local shows, however they would like to branch out and eventually be globally recognized. “We aren’t looking to get rich, but it would be nice to have the opportunity to work on our songs full time, and to play shows around the world,” explains Joshua. As a first step towards this goal, Conquer Monster is planning a West Coast tour after their album is complete. “Our goal is to connect with our audience. We completely believe in the music we make, and we’re excited to share it with people that will equally enjoy it.” Daniel continues, “We put a lot of soul into the melodies and movements we write, and we want listeners to feel that when they listen to Conquer Monster.”

Though music is the center of Conquer Monster, it is a multidimensional, unbound project that has many branches. “Conquer Monster, for me, is about combining all of my passions into one project,” explains Joshua. “I can play grainy electronic music, modify and build electronics, glitch videos, and write graphic novels all under the same moniker.” Daniel adds, “One of my most cherished moments of the week is the 9 am, hour-long train ride to band practice. The trip is always relaxing and reflective. It’s such a great feeling knowing that we’re dedicating the next 8 hours to creating and being totally engulfed in a tremendous world of sound that stems exclusively from our imaginations and our love to play music.”
Muzzle Tung
Muzzle Tung
Venue Information:
Urban Lounge
241 South 500 East
Salt Lake City, UT, 84102