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TRACK LIST: 1. Into the Sea 3:30 2. Big Sky 5:39 3. Eleven 2:35 4. Draw 3:39 5. Burnt Out Car 3:48 6. Lake Man 6:17 7. Glide 3:02 8. 8.19 5:28 9. Ghost 4:33 10. Moondial 4:09 LINEUP: Matt Stevens - guitars, bass; melodica; glockenspiel Kevin Feazey keyboards; programming Stuart Marshall drums, percussion
Prolusion. UK composer and multi-instrumentalist Matt STEVENS has been making quite a name for himself in the last few years. Utilizing the possibilities of the Internet in general and social networking in particular, he has built up a fan base and gained a good reputation. "Ghost" is his second production and was released in 2010.
Analysis. There have been many attempts at cracking the code in terms of finding the new business model amongst musicians. Matt Stevens has been among those who have taken the downloading brigade to court, allegorically-speaking, by allowing anyone to download his music for free, and left it up to the listeners if they want to pay for the music or even consider buying his CDs. The latest I've heard is that this approach in some ways has been successful, but that it demands hard work and lots of networking and, reaching a natural limit after some time, keeping track of the network gets exceedingly time-consuming as it grows. Musically Matt Stevens is more or less a one man band. His fellow musicians in post-rock act The Fierce and The Dead have helped out according to the credits, but this is first and foremost his work, an instrumental album made by one man and his acoustic guitar, with some additional instrumentations applied. And I'll readily admit that he have crafted himself a nice little album with that relatively limited box of tools. Neatly contrasting themes led by one darker-toned acoustic guitar, or occasionally a bass, if my ears are correct, catering to the rhythm, one lighter-toned wandering fluently above, at times taking on a slight jazz direction in terms of delivery. Drums are sparingly but effectively applied in part or in whole, while keyboards or melodica cater for the softer touches, most often by flavoring the arrangements with haunting, melancholic textures or details. The glockenspiel is pulled out now and then too, jointly utilized to add percussion details and a light, fragile touch to the proceedings. It's not easy to make such an endeavor intriguing and interesting throughout an album-length of material, but Stevens is successful at doing so. Opening track Into the Sea is the only one that didn't make much of an impression on me, but elsewhere the themes explored and motifs used to craft them are generally pleasant and interesting. Mostly so on fourth track Draw to my ears, the dark and dramatic bass and drums backdrop being a perfect match for the light-toned acoustic guitar wandering on top, and with a nifty psychedelic-oriented final phase that does come rather unexpected, in a good way. And while perhaps not the most progressive of efforts in terms of challenging compositions, it's an enjoyable run through some fairly sophisticated acoustic material with quite a few intricate maneuvers to enjoy.
Conclusion. Acoustic progressive rock isn't a type of music that surfaces too often, and for those who enjoy such productions Matt Stevens is an artist well worth checking out for past, present and future releases. He's creative and innovative, and utilizes his chosen tools in a good, effective and rather adventurous manner. And as such this one will be given a general recommendation to those who favor refined acoustic music, and prefer it served with a liberal dose of art rock flavoring.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 20, 2011
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