Recently, Stephen Malkmus has been doing some things other than his usual work with his Jicks, like a solo electronic record in last year’s Groove Denied (QRO review), and soon to revive his nineties alt-iconic act Pavement for a second time (QRO review of 2010 reunion). So new solo folk album Traditional Techniques doesn’t come completely out of left field, but is still a weird excursion, not without merit, but you want him to get back to what he does best.
Drawing on the obscure ‘weird folk’ of the sixties and seventies, Malkmus meanders all over the place on Traditional, from the eastern psych-folk of opener “ACC Kirtan” (sitar included) to full-on woodwinds of “What Kind of Person” (flute included). While those are the most extreme pieces, and there’s still the occasional wry SM like “The Greatest Own In Legal History” and guitar wail SM with “Xian Man”, if “sitar” and “flute” put you off, if you never like George Harrison’s weirder stuff, even stronger songs like single “Shadowbanned” won’t make this a record for you.
So if Stephen Malkmus wanted to do this, needed to do this, fine – particularly if it helps get us another Pavement reunion. But this is not the SM you’re looking for.