Review: Stephen Malkmus — ‘Groove Denied’

Heralded, as an electronic album shaped and written during Stephen Malkmus’ time living in Berlin, the concise, but slightly hoodwinked Groove Denied is more lo-fi, late night curiosity formed by the undeniable touch of Malkmus’ signature indie. Sure, a handful of tracks frost and sprinkle disco, rave, and electronica, but Groove Denied operates best when viewed from the bedroom DIY aesthetic.

The first three tracks, the oddly pulsed “Belziger Faceplant”, instantaneous “A Bit Wilder”, and futuristic “Viktor Borgia” all carry deep synth wave constructs. The first is fashioned by police sirens, late synth blasts and brief strained vocal mumblings. On first take, an adventurous head scratcher finishes as sensible as a NCAA lay up. “A Bit Wilder” offers microwavable grooves and seedy Berlin house shaken by an arty post-punk, heavy bent on industrial flares. Malkmus’ rhythmically speaking voice, coated with just enough reverb, adds a slice of robo thus giving “Viktor Borgia” a hi-tech sheen of whistled like melody as the synthesizers sway.

“Come Get Me” swaps the Euro-electronica for Motown soul and California sun. There’s prominent guitar and rollicking tumble of floor tom and snare. “Rushing The Acid Frat” revisits this pop framework and could find rotation on any post-Pavement/Jicks mixtape. “Love The Door” tugs at a similar wedgie. Like wandering in a boutique sock shop and ruffling colors, Malkmus does his best impression of himself with candy guitars and youthful zest. 

Drones and looped soundscapes dress “Forget Your Place” in a tunnel of collapsing space. Processed vocals, subtle dings and water dropping taps are wiped by the strange laser zaps and distorted textures. It’s hard to know where you are when the song begins and infinitely less so after it’s over. Splendidly claustrophobic and without time or space, Malkmus tinkers as robots infiltrate America’s next move.

Groove Denied, while a fuzz off his best literary work, is still the 3-credit equivalent to a state school’s intro to creative writing course. Malkmus, a master at saying (and playing) more with less and using language (and bright sounds) as a direct attack, rather than aiming his arrows at the meaning. A Malkmus arrow is the gestalt and Groove Denied is worth verbalizing and visualizing over.

For purchase information check out the Matador Records website HERE.