by Philip Moss
Much has been made of the roll that Stephen Malkmus is on – this is, after all, his third record in three years after the career hight, Sparkle Hard, and the whizkid electro of Groove Denied. But to bill it simply as an ‘acoustic record’ massively undersells Traditional Techniques inventive eclecticism.
Over six minutes, opener, ACC Kirtan, flits between Eastern soundscapes and a Pagan folk chorus that Bonnie Prince Billy would be proud of – followed the kind of rambling psych associated with The Byrds and The Brian Jonestown Massacre on Xian Man. Cash Up’s slide guitars rub up against the Nuggets-esque Shadowbanned. While jazzy double bass twists and turns on Brainwashed and Signal Western.
Malkmus has, of course, recorded acoustic guitar based songs before, but Amberjack is a wholly new proposition. More sincerely tender than anything in his canon, it is heartfelt, reflective and worth the admission fee here alone. Made even more emotive by the soft choirs that blur underneath its strummed chords.
Spend a little time with the Pavement man’s new collection and you will realise that buried beneath its freewheelin’ spirit is a set of songs that – although they are in some cases more traditional in the ‘traditional’ songwriting sense – do not fit the traditional Malkmus mould. In looking back at a genre he’s previously evaded, he’s actually ended up moving forward – and, regardless of sound, there ain’t many making records as variedly brilliant as he is.
Secret Meeting score: 78