Matt Stevens is ever, ever so good at the guitar. So good, he doesn’t need much else to accompany his riffing, strumming, and fingerpicking – including vocals. Yes, ‘Relic’ is an instrumental album, and it is one of those albums that is actually enhanced in lacking a voice. On a lot of instrumental recordings you can’t help – no matter how hard you try – but wonder what it’d sound like with some vocals, and that tends to mean that it could‘ve done with some vocals. That’s not the case here.
For ‘Relic,’ North Londoner Matt Stevens – also guitarist of The Fierce And The Dead – has enlisted some added musicians (chiefly, a drummer and violinist) to help him create some extra dimensions to his layered guitar music (as if he needed to). Although this may disappoint the fans of Matt Stevens’ other, strictly solo material, the drums and violin fully complement his progressive, post-rock guitar playing. The drums are especially constructive on the Radiohead-esque opener ‘Nightbus’ and prog-metal of ‘Frost.’ Yes, you heard right, prog-metal – a heavy riff forms the underbelly for some Opeth-style noodlings. On the other hand, the violin adds heaps of character to the ambient ‘Scapegoat’ and the Latin-flavoured ‘Rusty.’
However, despite the accomplished musicianship of the added instrumentation, this is the ‘Matt Stevens guitar-show.’ His looped guitar lines add a spacey, almost epic atmosphere to the acoustic, psych-folk strummings that form up the bulk of the music. Additionally, Stevens continues to expand his experimentation with regards to song structures, having finely tuned his math-rock style time signatures to be erratic enough without losing a song’s cohesion. Underneath it all, Matt Stevens has the ambitious heart of a jazz musician. A faultless record, out now…
Author: Clive Rozario