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TRACK LIST: 1. Nightbus 3:53 2. Relic 4:57 3. Rusty 3:00 4. 20 Goto 10 3:23 5. Rushden Fair 3:35 6. Up 5:01 7. Scapegoat 4:51 8. Sand-2 5:11 9. Frost 2:47 10. 30 End 6:06 LINEUP: Matt Stevens – guitars, bass; glockenspiel Stuart Marshall – drums, programming Kevin Feazey – bass; keyboards Chrissie Caulfield – violin
Prolusion. UK composer and multi-instrumentalist Matt STEVENS is a good example of the modern artist utilizing contemporary means to find and establish a fan base, utilizing social networks in particular to maintain contact with his audience, which has enabled him to establish a career as a solo artist in a relative short amount of time. "Relic" is his third full length production, and was released in 2011.
Analysis. One of the aims of Stevens when he originally set out was to record and release music he could perform himself when playing live. In a very literal understanding of this description, when he performs live it has been as a true solo performance, himself alone catering for everything performance wise. And while technical gadgets can enable an artist to actually craft rather elaborate sonic constructions single handedly these days there are still limits to this approach. And I suspect that quite a few of the songs Stevens has included on this most recent production of his will be hard, if not impossible, to perform in the arrangements used on this disc, at least without having to rely on playback. I guess semi-acoustic progressive rock might be as good description as any for the material at hand. The acoustic guitar is at the heart of everything here, more often than not in a rich array of layers with the different motifs combine in complex arrangements with plenty of tonal and timbre details to enjoy, and fairly often with a nice number of subtly contrasting features adding an effective level of tension to the proceedings. Drums, bass and keyboards are utilized on a fairly regular basis to broaden the scope of the compositions, and if I'm not mistaken we're treated to a few delightful instances of the good, old Mellotron too. Personally I was most intrigued by opening piece Nightbus in this case, the engaging bass line and steady drums reminding me quite a lot of Porcupine Tree, with Matt's careful acoustic guitars an effective driving, melodic presence on top – an approach revisited later on with Sand-2 that heads into a landscape of a similar nature following a slower paced, psychedelic tinged opening theme. And the psychedelic touches pop up elsewhere too, in more or less brief instances of textured instrument motifs first and foremost, as well as when the aforementioned Mellotron is applied of course. But there's also room for creations of a rather different nature, the folk-tinged Rushden Fair with its gentle melancholic opening and end theme is an intriguing one, in construction giving me association of travelling to a fair and then returning from it in the initial and end sequence respectively, with an energetic, lively midsection that to my mind represent the fair itself. A modern day folk classic in the making there perhaps? And with Frost Stevens widen the scope of his stylistic expression, this piece an effective pair off utilizing a brutal metal-tinged theme to contrast a gentle, dream-laden theme, the former opening and ending this brief, dramatic creation.
Conclusion. "Relic" is an interesting production by Matt Stevens, and while partially abandoning the concept of acoustic progressive rock of the one-man DIY variety, he does again showcase the strength of the acoustic guitar quite nicely. And while the arrangements are fleshed out with quite a few additional instruments on this occasion, the compositions themselves are all planned out on this instrument initially, unless I'm much mistaken. The end result is a credit to the creativity of this fine UK artist, and well worth seeking out for those with a taste for art rock that doesn't explore well known territories already frequently explored.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 15, 2012
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