Stephen Malkmus presents a rare and intimate solo concert of electronic music in the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall. The concert opens with a performance by Tim Midyett (Mint Mile / Silkworm).
Presented with the Empty Bottle
About the Artist
When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, his music 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 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 a surprising new project that embraces the digital tools and procedures he’d have once gone out of his way to avoid. Groove Denied, Stephen’s first solo album without his cohorts the Jicks since 2001, was made using Ableton’s Live, a software sequencer and “digital audio workstation” that is the preferred tool of discerning techno producers and deejays worldwide. Instead of a human-powered rhythm section of electric bass drums, Malkmus’s arsenal includes drum machines, along with a host of plug-in FX and “soft synths” (digital simulations of vintage electronic hardware that inhabit your computer rather than take over your entire living room). For the first time on record, what you hear here is just Stephen and the machine(s).
This departure from the tried-and-tested stems back to earlier in this decade, when Malkmus spent a couple of years living in Berlin and was exposed to the city’s vibrant club scene and became fascinated by techno. “The music can be great … you can zone out, dance, and focus on music—or just get wasted!” Although largely recorded in Oregon, Malkmus wrote the bulk of Groove Denied while living in Berlin. Updating his home studio with Ableton and teaching himself rudimentary Pro Tools, Malkmus started messing around with effects and loops, making music very differently from the feel-oriented way of coming up with chord progression and rhythm grooves on a guitar alone or jamming with a band.
While the methodology behind Groove Denied is absolutely 21st century, the reference points for the sound palette hark back to the pre-digital era. “The electronic music side of the album, I wanted it to be sonically pre-Internet,” explains Stephen. “So the EQ-ing is a bit 1970s, that sloppy DIY sequencing. And the influences are kinda 1981 post-punk—actually quite British.” Groove Denied will shake up settled notions of what Malkmus is about and what he’s capable of.
Mint Mile is the latest project for Tim Midyett (of Silkworm and Bottomless Pit), preserving and transmitting thought, feeling, impression, and memory. Following three well-received 12-inch EPs in as many years, Mint Mile’s full-length debut Ambertron will be released on Comedy Minus One in late 2019.
Support for Live Arts programming is provided by the Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago.