Maus Haus
Lark Marvels
(Pretty Blue Presents)

San Francisco sextet Maus Haus's debut album is the sort of work one expects from cosmopolitan city dwellers who possess extensive knowledge of fringe rock history—and who are probably on a first-name basis with all the clerks at Amoeba Records. Although these days, anyone with a high-speed internet connection and ample curiosity can become an expert on great obscure music in about a week. Maybe Maus Haus are shut-in savants who just happened to hit upon a sound that's informed by some of the greatest bands ever to blend rock with electronics.

Which is to say that Maus Haus clearly know about Silver Apples, Mort Garson, White Noise, and Patrick Gleeson's ARP sorcery with Herbie Hancock's early-'70s units. Kudos to them for that exquisite taste, but a great record collection doesn't guarantee a band will make great music, of course. Thankfully, Maus Haus assimilate their influences into compositions that rarely do the expected thing and often do terribly interesting things.

Opening track "Rigid Breakfast" reveals Maus Haus's prevalent surprising dynamics, preference for eccentric analog-synth tones, and off-kilter melodic sensibility. Throughout Lark Marvels, understated oscillations and squiggles, calliope-like trills, ramshackle percussion, and untutored sax (but no guitars) coalesce into songs that are both odd and fun, catchy and quirky. All these tracks arose from improvisation and then were manipulated in the members' respective home studios. Music in this vein sometimes succumbs to excessive cutesiness, but Maus Haus elude this pitfall, even if their moniker doesn't.

Lark Marvels has a cut called "We Used Technology (but Technology Let Us Down)"; it's Maus Haus's most conventionally pop tune, but its titular sentiment is false. Technology—no matter how non–state of the art it may be here—has served this group just fine on this disc. recommended