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STEPHEN MALKMUS

Stephen Malkmus

Traditional Techniques

    Traditional Techniques, Malkmus’ third solo LP without the Jicks (or Pavement), is new phase folk music for new phase folks, with Malkmus as attuned as ever to the rhythms of the ever-evolving lingual slipstream. It’s packed with handmade arrangements, modern folklore, and 10 songs written and performed in his singular voice. An adventurous new album in an instantly familiar mode, Traditional Techniques creates a serendipitous trilogy with the loose fuzz of the Jicks’ Sparkle Hard (2018) and the solo bedroom experiments of Groove Denied (2019). Taken together, these three very different full-lengths in three years highlight an ever-curious songwriter committed to finding untouched territory.

    Malkmus took on Traditional Techniques as a kind of self-dare. Conceived while recording Sparkle Hard at Portland’s Halfling Studio, Malkmus had observed the variety of acoustic instruments available for use. The idea escalated within a matter of weeks into a full set of songs, and shortly thereafter into a realized and fully committed album. When he returned to Halfling, Malkmus drew from a whole new musical palette--including a variety of Afghani instruments - to support an ache both quizzical and contemporary. The resulting Traditional Techniques is expansive and thrilling. Alongside gorgeous folk music, there are also occasional bursts of flute-laced swagger, straight-up commune rock (“Xian Man”), and mind-bending fuzz.

    Centred around the songwriter’s 12-string acoustic guitar, and informed by a half-century of folk-rock reference points, Traditional Techniques is the product of Malkmus and Halfling engineer/arranger-in-residence Chris Funk (The Decemberists). Additionally, Matt Sweeney (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Chavez) plays guitar throughout.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Malkmus returns, bringing with him a healthy line-up of shimmering folky ballads and swooning angular acoustic guitar work. Ranging from hypnotic drones and soul-affirming melodicism to jaunty, swaggering grooves and all topped with Malkmus' unmistakeable vocals. Superb.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. ACC Kirtan
    2. Xian Man
    3. The Greatest Own In Legal History
    4. Cash Up
    5. Shadowbanned
    6. What Kind Of Person
    7. Flowin’ Robes
    8. Brainwashed
    9. Signal Western
    10. Amberjack

    Stephen Malkmus

    Groove Denied

      The rumours are true: the secret electronic album that Stephen Malkmus has been telling everyone about sees the light of day through Domino. But Groove Denied is not a full-blown plunge into EDM or hiptronica. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. Groove Denied is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a routine. As Malkmus commented, “It’s fun to mess with things that you’re not supposed to.”

      The first taste of Stephen’s new groove can be sampled today, with the release of single ‘Viktor Borgia’, and its accompanying video starring Stephen alone in a dance club. The title playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. With its stately melody and the almost-English-accented vocal, the coordinates here are early Human League or even Men Without Hats. “I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982,” says Stephen, adding “and also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: It's bloody brilliant this, with hints of post-punk garage and most of all 80's synth, Malkmus clearly shows his wealth of influence on 'Groove Denied', swinging from snappy grunge to 70's psychedelia without batting an eyelid. Though the diversity in sound shines through, it's not without the Malkmus charm, with his vocal prowess shining through the stylistic patchwork.

      TRACK LISTING

      Eins
      01. Belziger Faceplant
      02. A Bit Wilder
      03. Viktor Borgia
      04. Come Get Me
      05. Forget Your Place

      Zwei
      06. Rushing The Acid Frat
      07. Love The Door
      08. Bossviscerate
      09. Ocean Of Revenge

      Modesty and plain good manners might prevent them from saying so themselves, but the fact that Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks have thrived, rather than simply endured over 17 years and delivered six albums of buzzy, sub-cultural significance, constitutes an impressive legacy. The challenge with album number seven is one that any successful band with integrity faces: how to safeguard that legacy and hold on to their identity without rehashing old ground (unthinkable), and also say something meaningful while (crucially) having fun doing it?

      Meeting that issue head on in the run up to The Jicks’ seventh record involved some “navel gazing”, according to singer, songwriter, and guitarist Malkmus and not only in terms of what it means to be releasing music in 2018. If, like him, you’re a voracious consumer of all kinds of culture and feel the need to interact with it, rather than just react, then inevitably “there’s a world that prompts you to put your best foot forward”. With Sparkle Hard Malkmus, Mike Clark (keyboards), Joanna Bolme (bass) and Jake Morris (drums) do exactly that. And they hit the ground running – on air treads.

      It’s light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, goodtime and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes (Auto-Tune, a fiddle, guest vocalist Kim Gordon, one seven-minute song with an acoustic folk intro) – The Jicks refashioned. If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. It also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.

      Malkmus started writing Sparkle Hard in 2015. He’d upgraded his home-recording equipment and bought some electronic drums and had been working on the Netflix series Flaked (he penned the incidental music and the end theme song). Demos were done in one day in April of 2017 and then in May, The Jicks started recording at a new studio in Portland called Halfling, which is managed by multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk of The Decemberists, who produced the album.

      Self-indulgent escapism has never been The Jicks’ bag, but on Sparkle Hard, the reality of modern life sits closer to the surface, communication cutting to the chase whether it’s a proto-punk grind or a back-porch country duet doing the talking. A cleaner burn for dark and complex times.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Classic slacker vibes, double tracked vocal flourishes and more acoustic balladry make up the backbone of Malkmus' output, but this one takes the elements previously laid and fleshes them out into tender but beautiful statements of melody and rhythm. More full-on heavy moments are tempered with their ability to reduce things when needed ; the bass/guitar scree in 'Shiggy' serving as a perfect example of a wholly accomplished concept, executed with style.

      TRACK LISTING

      Cast Off
      Future Suite
      Solid Silk
      Bike Lane
      Middle America
      Rattler
      Shiggy
      Kite
      Brethren
      Refute
      Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels

      Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

      Wig Out At Jagbags

        New album from ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and his band The Jicks.

        The album was produced by the band (Stephen Malkmus, Joanna Bolme, Jake Morris and Mike Clark) and Remko Schouten (the Dutch soundman of Pavement fame) in a studio in rural Ardennes with ‘a farmhouse vibe’.

        In the words of Stephen Malkmus, "‘Wig Out At Jagbags’ is inspired by Cologne, Germany, Mark Von Schlegel, Rosemarie Trockel, Von Sparr and Jan Lankisch, Can and Gas; Stephen Malkums imagined Weezer/Chili Peppers, SIc Alps, UVA in the late 80's, NYRB, Aroma Charlottenburg, inactivity, Jamming, Indie guys trying to sound Memphis, Flipper, Pete Townsend, Pavement, The Joggers, The NBA and home life in the 2010's..."


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Ryan says: Malkmus displays his songwriting prowess again, following a similar formula to 'Mirror Traffic', Hazy guitar-rock and clever twists and turns make for an excellent listen.

        Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

        Mirror Traffic

          'Mirror Traffic' is the new Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks album, recorded at LA’s Sunset Sound Studios and at the home of the album’s producer, Beck.

          With the question of a Pavement reunion having been triumphantly answered last year with an Ono-esque “YES”, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks return with their most energized set to date. These 15 songs range from hard-rocking political commentary (“Senator”), to touching, winsome folk (“No One Is”), to virtuosic but melancholy and contrite kiwi pop (“Stick Figures In Love”). The lyrics are as curious as ever but more meaningful than they have been since 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain'. “This record,” concedes Malkmus dryly, “is relatively approachable.”

          As the first producer to work with Malkmus since Pavement, Beck has drawn out a set of performances that ring with clarity and inventiveness. Gone are the long guitar workouts and jams that marked the last couple Jicks albums, replaced with a sharply defined focus and more colorful depth of field. With nearly half the tracks clocking in under three minutes, 'Mirror Traffic' flashes by with a lightness of touch; a decision that band and producer found easy to take: “Beck & I were both burned out on the heavy rocking style,” says Malkmus, “and playing to the strengths of a melody felt like the way to go.”

          First two responses from bigshot journalists who got early copies were, word for word:
          1) “I’m so psyched, this is the most Malk thing in years”
          2) “I respect his right to make any record he wants, but this is the album that me and a lot of other people have waited 10 years for.”

          For someone who has occasionally enjoyed a reputation for throwing ideas into the air and seeing where they land, 'Mirror Traffic' is a confident, heartfelt, direct record. Ease into the seat and enjoy the ride.

          Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

          Real Emotional Trash

            After three albums, critical recognition of the post-Pavement career of Stephen Malkmus has suffered; such was that bands legacy on alternative rock music. Of late, a vocal appearance on the "I'm Not There" soundtrack album has helped underline his unique lyrical style and bring his ever boyish vocal to a fresh audience. Refining the scattergun approach to acid rock, folk, prog and bubblegum that characterized the Pavement sound and subsequent three as Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, "Real Emotional Trash" ranks alongside "Wowee Zowee" and "Terror Twilight" as a wonky, woozy 'heads' record. "Hopscotch Willy" and "Baltimore" touch musically and lyrically on the 60s folk-rock tradition. Over ten minutes, the title track jumps from Fairport Convention, Television and Grateful Dead. No doubt taking a cue from Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs, Malkmus indulges his penchant for guitars of all description; electric, acoustic, delayed, distorted, doubled, detuned and often wailing simultaneously in all directions. As much as the songs are undoubtedly from the pen of Malkmus, this is definitely a proper band effort. The bottom end crunch supplied by Janet Weiss (formerly Sleater Kinney) and bassist Joanna Bolme provide ballast and direction, ensuring the album will rock you to the soles of your battered Converse.

            Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

            Pig Lib

              For his second album after splitting indie-gods Pavement, Stephen Malkmus sets his controls for the heart of the seventies! Eschewing conventional flabby white boy blues rock cliches for a tighter sound more reminiscent of the Groundhogs (long time Piccadilly faves) and Captain Beefheart, Malkmus adds a dash of folk-rock and some ace krautrock synth sounds to his inimitable skewed pop aesthetic. Initially less accessible than his debut, repeated listens reveal "Pig Lib" to be just as rewarding as those more 'musical' later Pavement offerings.


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