A revised version of my 2009 post on home-recorded popster and truth-sayer John Maus - updated to take in his recent album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves - is being published in book form this month by Precinct together with a new interview. It'll be launched on Wednesday 27th of July, 7pm at X Marks the Bökship, London (details on the flyer above and here), where I'll be talking for a bit. Do come along, music will be on the decks and on sale too. The book will be available subsequently via http://www.precinct.cc/.
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (click here to listen on Soundcloud) is as tuneful, surprising and provocative as we've come to expect from one of the most unique lo-fi artists in recent memory (don't write him off as just another one of Ariel Pink's 'godchildren'...), so give it a go. In its wake there's been a healthy crop of commentary and interviews: of particular note are Joseph Stannard's piece in The Wire #329, the Altered Zones piece and an interview for The Quietus. These two videos are pretty essential too:
Asked about the 1980s nostalgia and retroism in his music, some of Maus's responses have been quite illuminating as alternative takes on the Retromania hypothesis. From the Wire interview:
"I don't see this as a returning, I see this as a palette that we have to work with. These sounds are part of the vernacular. I resist this idea that we somehow move on to 'better' sounds. It's not about nostalgia or some kind of remembering, at least not consciously for me; it's what the work necessitates. It's part of this language and so we can explore the expressive possibilities afforded by these so-called nostalgic or retro sounds. They're just the best suited to the end of the work, you know?And for The Quietus:
... I think it's supremely contemporary to use these so called 'nostalgic' effects, in the sense of the contemporary being out of joint with the moment in some way. There are certain types of harmonic ideas that you heard a lot in the 80s that I suspect warrant exploration right now, here, today. We can keep exploring these ideas, so it's not a question of nostalgically reminiscing about these times, it's a question of beginning from where it was left and pushing it further.
I kind of resisted this idea that is has to do with fashion, or it has to do with nostalgia, even though I'm sure it does, in many ways I don't tend to think of it that way, I think of it just as a convention of the language, that is always there, it's always available to deploy. It's always available for mobilisation... it's not a matter of making us think of whatever was 30 years ago or whatever, it's right now, those sounds are available to us, and the work can include all kinds of different things, and that's the one I'm wagering is most appropriate, the one that the work demands, you know?The ability to speak a meaningful language through music is contingent upon some familiar, semi-stable language having been established in the past and surviving - in a necessarily changed form - into the present. Retro music is always meaningful, and meaningful music is always, to some extent, retro.