“An exciting left-turn into weirdo pop heaven” –Rolling Stone
“A synth-laden, warped experiment drawing influence from early eighties post punk” –NPR
“Elder statesman of slack joins a rather elite club of rockers who forwent their guitars to instead indulge in electronics” –Vulture
Stephen Malkmus had a vision … or so begins the lyrics to ‘Rushing The Acid Frat,’ the newly released single from his forthcoming Groove Denied out Friday 15 March on Matador Records / Remote Control. The song title, inspired by Stephen’s memories of a specific student fraternity (think less beer-pong-bros, more “Grateful Dead druggy tie-dye” vibe) at his University of Virginia alma mater, is a “Louie Louie”-style shindig rumpus, which he imagines as the soundtrack to a “Star Wars bar scene in such a frat … it’s kinda 12-bar but gigged with psych lyrics.”
Its accompanying video, created by Robert Strange, the visual artist of pop collective Superorganism, features an animated Stephen taking a trippy romp through LA’s Koreatown and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, followed by a trip to the moon, and back to a field on Earth, tinged with colorful hallucinatory enhancements.
When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early Nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, the area of music with which he was associated couldn’t really have been further from the techno-rave sounds of the day. Electronic dance music, then as now, was about posthuman precision, inorganic textures, and hyper-digital clarity. Whereas the lo-fi movement in underground rock championed a messthetic of sloppiness, rough edges, and raw warmth – a hundred exquisitely subtle shades of distortion and abrasion.
Fast forward to the present and here comes Malkmus with Groove Denied– Stephen’s first solo album without his cohorts The Jicks since 2001. Made using Ableton’s Live, instead of a human-powered rhythm section, Malkmus’s arsenal further included drum machines, along with a host of plug-in FX and “soft synths.”
Groove Denied will shake up settled notions of what Malkmus is about and what he’s capable of, repositioning him in the scheme of things. But looking at it from a different angle, his engagement with state-of-art digital tech actually makes perfect sense. After all, Nineties lo-fi – the sound in which he andPavement were initially vaunted as leaders and pioneers – was nothing if not insistently sonic – it was all about the grain of guitar textures, about gratuitously over-done treatments and ear-grabbing effects. Noise for noise’s sake. As Stephen tweeted recently on the subject of Auto-Tune’s omnipresence in contemporary music-making: “We long 4 transformation….and we humans fucking luv tools.”