John Maus Returns, Comes to First Avenue

The electro-pop dissident’s latest albums to reach their biggest home-state audience yet

John Maus comes to First Avenue on February 28

Photo by Shawn Brackbill

John Maus, Minnesota’s veteran electro-pop nonconformist, hits up First Avenue on February 28 with his first album following a six-year hiatus, Screen Memories. He brings along a reputation for unhinged performances and last year’s Screen Memories addendum, Addendum, after a tour cancellation last summer.

Also onboard: a sound we would call boundary-pushing if that boundary demarked a hazy, synth-y pop dungeon—or if we were brave enough to describe it at all.

Because critics have called Maus’s music a lot of things since he released his first studio album, Songs, in 2006: ’80s revivalist, outsider, hypnagogic, goth-pop-ish. He’s rejected most of those labels.

The baritone-voiced native of Austin, Minnesota, with a PhD in political science and a penchant for experimentation, has explained in interviews that he never meant to summon the ’80s—not on his 2011 lo-fi breakthrough We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, nor on his two previous albums, which critics reevaluated after the well received and cultishly adored We Must Become took them by surprise. Those retro modes that we pick out go back farther, he’s noted—to Renaissance and medieval music. And the synths? They’re just richer than guitars. In other words: No nostalgia here.

If you’re nostalgic, though—well, it’s been a minute. After a 2012 compilation album, Maus kept his head down, wrapping up a dissertation at the University of Hawaii and building modular synthesizers for his next work, 2017’s warmly (if somewhat bemusedly) received Screen Memories.

For his live performances, Maus is just as, if not more, notorious. The Guardian has called it “extreme revolutionary synthpop karaoke” when he takes to the stage solo for full-body, howling convulsions set to recordings of his songs.

While he’s been a Pitchfork-favorite pioneer for years, Maus’s upcoming First Avenue show will be his biggest ever in his home state, according to a press release.

Listen to “The Combine,” the lead single off Screen Memories, below: