Matt Stevens – Ghost

I liked this album a lot, not so much because of it’s ability to constantly floor me (it’s not that sort of album) but moreso for it’s knack at harking me back to other artist’s that I love. I find it hard to pin down any absolute favourite throughout the cd’s 40 minutes running time however it is not short on wonderful moments.

Opener Into the Sea calls on the more minimalistic solo works of Rodiguez Lopez of Mars Volta fame – over dubbing acoustic guitar patterns and noodling around them to create a very interesting vibe. This is the main technique running all over the place, with occasional ventures into instruments that either add a punch to a climax (see the escalating percussion in 8.19 or Moondial), a sweeping blanket of background sound (Glide) and/or a touch of electronics to add a nice juxtaposition to the largely acoustic repetoir (look no further than the ambiguously annoying yet charming ‘backwards’ section of Big Sky).

Calling back to the beginning of this review though, what I enjoy are the little things that make me think of other well established artists, whether Steven’s has heard these people before is irrelevant, what is important is he plays these roles well, and engagingly so. Eleven clamours along with muted plucks of the guitar that remind me of Lionel Louke playing on Avishai Cohen’s brilliant After the Big Rain while the almost Flamenco-like guitar playing in Burnt out Car calls to mind the playfulness of Waldemar Bastos on the album Pretaluz.

Clearly the biggest (and probably most genuine influence) on Stevens’ work is that of Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodrigez Lopez. Ghost almost sounds good enough to be a cut on A Manual Dexterity and that is said with great compliments. The low tones and desolate western harmonica (i think it is a harmonica) give this track space to breathe around the poignant chords being played.

It takes a few listens through to take in, but once those stand out moments connect with you, the whole picture seems to come to the fore and realise itself as a cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs.

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