John Maus - Screen Memories album review

First album in six years from Minnesota’s singing theoretician

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Maus has spent most of his working life juggling songwriting with academia, studying Renaissance music at the California Institute of the Arts and earning a master’s degree in philosophy from Switzerland. Since his last album, 2011’s We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, he’s completed a political science doctorate at the University of Hawaii. All of this might suggest an artist big on heavy conceptualism, but less interested in carrying a decent tune. The reality is quite different. His earlier experimental music has morphed into something more cohesive and hook-friendly, occupying a space where stately synthpop and obscure progtronica get on down. Keyboards and modular synths dominate on this fourth solo record, their droning patterns overlaid by Maus’ sulky voice. If you’ve ever wondered what Sisters Of Mercy might sound like if they teamed up with Vangelis, see Teenage Witch. Post-New Romantic surliness cuts through the industrial throb of Touchdown, while echoes of sometime collaborator Ariel Pink ring through the broody hallways of Walls Of Silence. There’s straight-faced humour too – ‘Your pets are gonna die’ on Pets – and a whole lot more besides. His best album yet.