Wednesday, 9 April 2014

CD Review: Lucid by Matt Stevens

I recall some years back actually queuing up for a gig. It was a K-Scope night at the Union Chapel and once again, Matt Stevens was handing out flyers encouraging people to listen to his music. I’d seen him support artists before, but I was struck by his tenacity, if you will, exuberance at continually working hard to self-promote. He did a superlative job and with the help of social media and word of mouth, news did get around and Matt’s popularity increased exponentially. I recall seeing him at The Borderline, as a support and he deserved a bigger crowd. As I sat, watching his amazing guitar work, he brought to mind a big bear of a Prog Mariachi-fast and furious, but with the contrast of being an exceptionally personable guy.

I’ll avoid going into Matt’s biography, because I reckon you’re probably reading this because I’ve advertised it amongst my friends on Facebook, so you're one of the FB crowd instead of someone googling a review of Lucid and arriving here randomly. I’m not a music reviewer; I’ll leave that to my peers who deservedly get published on official music websites and in Rock publications, but I will proffer an opinion.

Matt has proven to be highly creative when constructing guitar-based tracks. What he does brilliantly, and it shows on this album, is that he eschews the trappings that guitarists normally get into when releasing instrumental albums-you know, the sort of album that is a showcase for the individual’s talent as an artist, but is hugely self-indulgent and praised by only the most sycophantic of fans-and gets on with entertaining tracks that showcase the light and shade that he is capable of. Influences from his own work are clear in some tracks, but this is not a solo album that we’ve heard before. Fuzzy, dirty noise that you’d expect to here on a Fierce and the Dead track thrust through the track Unsettled, and is Jimi Hendrix after 15 pints of Doom Bar. 

Echoes of previous solo work turn up in the tracks Flow, The Other Side, KEA and A Boy. Track 6 Coulrophobia appears, to me, to be influenced by Steven Wilson. It has that quality about it. Far from being a derogatory statement, I think it shows the evolution of Matt Stevens as a musician; in that he’s saturating in music that he enjoys and giving it that Stevens identity.

If I had one criticism, it’s from a Prog fan’s perspective. Some tracks are just too damn short. Exhibit A: the title track, Lucid. This is a fine track and it feels like a ruined orgasm when it ends. It ends too soon; there’s no payoff for me. I hope Matt releases a longer version, to give a more satisfying experience. The Bridge, of course, cannot be criticised for this.

Guest stars such as Jem Godfrey, Pat Mastelotto, and Stuart Marshall help to give the album a dimension that it deserves. The bass work by Lorenzo Feliciati and Charlie Cawood is particularly effective.

If this is your first Matt Stevens album, I recommend hunting down his previous work. Lucid is so good that they might seem like demo recordings. Whilst that description sounds unfair, as the quality of Ghost, and Relic (for example) is very good, it serves to illustrate and chart the evolution of this clever guitarist. I’m excited to see what exposure Stevens gets from this album. I’m hoping that it opens more doors to collaboration.

Praise should also go to Esoteric Antenna, for putting their money where their mouth is and producing a memorable album that has immense replay value. With strong albums by The War on Drugs, and John Wesley already commanding my attention for album of the year, it should say much that Lucid now joins that battle, in my head, for the top spot. This is another good year for music, as it’s only April. Forthcoming albums include the new one from Opeth, IQ, and Tim Bowness. We’re spoilt rotten!

Lucid can be bought from good record shops (try finding one) or all good inter web stockists. I recommend Burning Shed: