Pretty Blue Presents
Rating: 9.75 out of 10
I know how easy it is to consistently pick from the same source material for comparables when the English language fails to properly convey the musical product of a somewhat idiosyncratic musical producer. Take the Nuggets boxset for instance: It’s very copious coverage of a large number of proto-punk, garage and psychedelic music from an influential era basically guarantees its perpetual reference. Maus Haus is no exception to this rule, their home city being San Francisco, and their music owing something to the Nuggets timeline.
But, since Battles so interestingly married traditional instrumentation with modern paeans to the future sounds of something or other, with Maus Haus, the over-tapped 60s have finally led us to realize our inner-Jetson, 60s era pop ideals of a clean and robotic future seeping into our present millennial consciousness. No skyward housing, but a technologically tied and paranoid bunch we’ve become, nonetheless.
Though the 50’s and 60’s idea of future civilizations didn’t conceive that grime, grit and aggression (punk and hip-hop) would interfere with progress, electro-apocalyptic progressive rock seems to be where we’re heading. Maus Haus, a sextet of such caliber, has the societal politeness, or matter-of-factness of some British invasion act of the Nuggets era, crossing Kraftwerk-ian experimentation and Blues Magoos moog-heavy garage rock with an “out there” quality that evokes Captain Beefheart.
“Rigid Breakfast,” the first song from their new album Lark Marvels, couples an almost Plan 9 attack of sci-fi theremin with surf rhythm fluctuation. It’s promise of mind-numbing eccentricity (its too prim and proper to constitute “weird”) is only compounded by the fractured Philip Marlowe noir-ish tone of nearly rapped, “Secret Deals:”
“There’s more film than food in this freezer.”
With “Secret Deals,” the concept of progressive rock, where it may have been challenged about two years ago by Battles and their Chipmunk-ian modernity, is once again seen through the Trout Mask and readily applied to the Internet age. “Industrial” doesn’t cover it; this feels more like cyborg music for a deranged upper crust. If you can’t imagine that, just give a listen to “We Used Technology (But Technology Let Us Down),” realizing that its “walk in the park” romantic poise, reminiscent of what some might call a “simpler time,” perfectly demonstrates exactly how fucked up our lives have become:
“In touch but we’re still alone/It’s broke and it stays at home/We used technology/But technology let us down.”
Illustrating our romance with the modern age with music meant to woo? Wow.
Lark Marvels comes close to being this decade’s late entry Trout Mask Replica (if Battles’ Mirrored had been the Freak Out!), a collection of smooth electronic transitions (“Radio Dials Die”), Atari-accented Devo rock (“Reaction”) and stuttered electronic rhythms (“Irregular Hearts”). It’s both silly (“Cold In August”) and nonsensical (“Conversational French”) and, despite its penchant for electrical propulsion, Maus Haus also carries some funk and rock energy (“Dead Keys Drop”) and orchestral build-up (“Million Volt Lights”).
As Mirrored brought a variation of progressive music to a new and creative peak, Lark Marvels has erected a scaffold and created a new apex, if that seemed possible, adding a one to what many probably thought was “infinity.” The Nuggets haven’t been exhausted after all. Maybe the 60s had it all figured out.
Letters From A Tapehead