Kevin Barnes, the musical ganglion for Elephant 6 counterpart of Montreal, manipulates and often dismantles nearly every parameter of conventional music with such skill in Paralytic Stalks that I was left not confused but awestruck. Rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, dynamic, and even consonance are broken down to their smallest bits and become clay in the hands of a sculptor. He even ironically adopts certain genres like electro or house in “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” and performs them better than many of the genre’s actual members and contributors. This is no new pursuit for Barnes, who has been known to careen boldy into and out of a variety of genres.
After reading the review by Larry Fitzmaurice on Pitchfork (who gave this album a 4.6, the lowest rating of his colleagues from high profile music mags), I believe he let personal preference interfere too greatly. Fitzmaurice talks about Kevin Barnes’ early work as being a smattering of small “endless possibilities” in jumbled array, but the newest undertaking as simply “a mess.” I fail to see the difference as anything more than degree of normative abandonment.
Paralytic Stalks feels to me like you are inside the brain of a humanoid figure during a nervous breakdown. This figure journeys through many moments in time and picks up musical epitomes of memories long lost.
I agree that Paralytic Stalks is not an easy listen. But the density of the work and skillful molestation of genre norms leads me not to the aid of my natural desire for consonance, but to my deep-rooted appreciation for daring, expectation-bending music. This is a post-everything record.