John Maus Screen Memories Ribbon Music
After pretty much disappearing from the public eye, maudlin synth-pop cult hero John Maus has returned with his first album in six years. Screen Memories is an introspective score of both the sullen and sublime. Maus’s deadpan delivery and often inane lyrics of dreaded mundanity, political mockery and unrequited love are laced in a dark humour. His 2011 masterpiece, We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’ spiralled with gothic reverb and deep, melancholic reflections. And with Screen Memories, the tone is largely more somber and reverent than ever before.
Opening track Combine bursts with commanding chords and poignant church bells which intertwine with brooding arpeggios, juxtaposing glory and fear. His lyrics “It’s going to dust us all to nothing”, “I see the combine coming” project apocalyptic visions. The record itself is named after a freudian concept, one where childhood memories of deep significance or emotional trauma are compromised and remodeled as a defence mechanism.
While it’s obvious there are themes of the world’s end threaded through, there is an air of Maus coming to terms with strayed and suppressed memories of pain. Walls of Silence aches in a doleful resignation while the neon-lit slow-dance of Sensitive Recollections melts in mournful redemption. Over Phantom ensures Maus is also toying with ideas of his own mortality in the shadow of doomsday. Layered baroque synth melodies and lasers surge under his arresting lyrics: ‘I am the phantom over the battlefield’.
There is a sense of lethargy throughout the record but it is greatly outweighed by striking moments of ethereal bliss along with the profound reflections of an isolated intellect. As the beloved John Maus stares down the eyes of society’s inevitable demise, or indeed his own emotional awakening, his music is just as tragically captivating than ever before.