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Stephen Malkmus - "Groove Denied" | Album Review


by Gianluigi Marsibilio (@GMarsibilio)

"The concept probability is not simple" wrote Nevin Climenhaga in an essay on Aeon, however playing with odds and betting, like Blaise Pascal, on Stephen Malkmus is extremely simple, since winning is always quite safe. The Pavement leader, with his infinite versatility, has managed to trace, once again, a new path of research that has given rise to Groove Denied.

Malkmus sketches in his sound just like Joan Mirò did in "Painting" (1933 painting). Starting from electronics we can get immersed in a complex abstraction, which in the course of the tracks becomes clearer, sharper and brighter. Mirò and Malkmus touch each other, skimming through a waltz that puts them in contact, even if unintentionally. Does talking about the master of Catalan surrealism make sense to introduce and talk about Malkmus' new album? Yes, and it's interesting to point out the aspect because the mainstay of Pavement played a fundamental role in changing and punctuating the music scene of the 90s and '00s, with a dose of lucid madness.

Malkmus as a great painter invents not a sound but a language made of feedback, extreme bits, and even of electronic rhapsodies. The artist is immersed, lives, eats, drinks, breathes in a way not common to human beings. Stephen Malkmus is a human, too human.

The album breaks with a personal tradition: the artist's songs and ideas are divided into various digital packages of sounds, electronic passages and hisses of voice. The most dissonant and disorienting note comes with "Belziger Faceplant," where there is already a clear image of how the road taken with Groove Denied is something new. It is the fulfillment of an innovative personal dimension. The beautiful circularity created among songs is picturesque, there is always a wonderful connection between songs like "A Bit Wilder." Everything works in an extremely cinematic way that makes Groove Denied almost a movie soundtrack. 

In songs like "Come Get Me" or “Ocean of Revenge” there is a plunge into a more usual world for Malkmus and his "fans": the sound game that triggers between a bass hit and the other is pressing and provides a perfect carpet to the creeping voice of the leader of the Pavement. An eternal desire and ability to challenge himself, the creation of an aesthetic that ranges from lo-fi to redundant sound, in electronic passages. 

The first approach with the "totally other" of electronics for Malkmus was around 2001, today the artistic elaboration in an album like this is total. The research of the creative leader of Pavement no longer simply embraces the sounds but the processes of construction. For this reason, there is neither madness nor blasphemy in matching the mature Mirò and Stephen Malkmus: the painter has focused to better elaborate his symbols exactly on the materials, on the processes, today Malkmus does the same, even if on a different topic.

To understand Groove Denied in a nutshell, you can embrace the sound of Cabaret Voltaire, mix it with a slight pinch of Low, insert the rave culture and focus everything with the incredible genius of an artist who is now a monument, the corner head of a house that contains genius and inspiration.