“Ghost” – ‘Matt Stevens’

With the blogs affiliates fully up and running, we’ve had a few posts our way asking for reviews. Because the blog is more casual than it is business-like, it’s hard for a two-man team to get around to reviewing each and every request – and like my partner says: sometimes we just can’t review average or below albums because we just don’t have the time. Nevertheless, independent- solo-artist and member of the band ‘Fierce And The Dead’Matt Stevens, approached Highly Evolved in the effort of peaking our interest [which he did] with his album “Ghost”. So here it is:

"Ghost" - 'Matt Stevens'

"Ghost" - 'Matt Stevens'

With a blend of sometimes-unorthodox riffs partnered together in loops, leads and solos, “Ghost” is an intriguing instrumental assortment that borderlines on the elements of experimental and even post-rock vibes. With touches of acoustic outweighing most instances of electric, this otherwise commonplace partnership of sounds is drastically altered by its off-kilter appearance, favouring a way of chaos mired in an order that is as memorable as it is unique. ‘Matt Stevens’ toys with some amazing sounds – ideas which are then layered on top of one and other in an effort to break down the walls of predictability. I didn’t have a clue what to expect at any given moment…

With that said – appreciating “Ghost’s” individuality – I respect the fact that it mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea: while this music is pushing on its own boundaries, there are some notably cringe-worthy moments between the interchange of a chorus or the introduction of another layer, lead or loop. Although this disturbs, perhaps, a particularly enjoyable moment during a track, the blunt, unexpected switch of perspective is nevertheless admirable and occasionally refreshing.

Newcomers to ‘Matt Stevens’, like myself, will evidently find however, that sounds such as these can be predominantly lumped into the category of “growers“. “Ghost” is more like an exploration rather than an acceptance: sure, you might find one track and stick to it like glue, but it takes time and patience to even look at all the rest. Tracks are so self-contained that flow from one to the next is entirely disrupted, so it really doesn’t matter where you pick up from, there really is no start, no middle and no finish. For comparisons of ‘Stevens’, I would point listeners in the direction of artists like ‘Message To Bears’ or even ‘Eluvium’ – both heavily instrumental, both feature guitar as the dominating instrument of choice.

Moving along – “Ghost” is aptly suited for post-rock in this circumstance, with a total absence of vocals; but I wouldn’t go hailing it as a rival to ‘Mogwai’ just yet. Leading instruments seem lathered over one and other, and attachment to one can – and often will – leave you disappointed as something else rocks up to replace it. While guitar is the overall instrument of choice, synth will often creep out to reinforce a chorus of particularly memorable layers. Other instruments rarely feature, however. This is perhaps a perspective worth exploring further, because when percussion does manage to stumble out into the limelight, it makes a track that much more enjoyable – with the style of ‘Stevens’ and an entire opus of sound, who knows what epic might be pumped out as a result?

I look forward to the aftermath if it ever comes! [Should ‘Sigur Ros’ be shaking in their boots???]

At around the forty-minute mark, give or take a few, “Ghost” is appropriately suited for vinyl format, as is the case it seems these days. While not overly long by most standards, it still remains quite deceptive and slow-paced, with drive usually subdued and crescendo at a minimum. Ten tracks in total, each float around the four-minute mark, so there really aren’t any untidy ephemeral-tracks worth worrying about. There’s plenty to keep you busy.

“Into The Sea” opens for “Ghost”, and is reminiscent of ‘Message To Bears’ in its heavy acoustic aspects, which feature backing-riffs together with guitar-raps offset by competing lead-riffs. There is a shift halfway through the track, where pace starts to build, and although things bounce harmoniously off one and other in this opener, “Big Sky” which follows, is unexpectedly chaotic. Two backing-riffs feature as an introduction, shifting to and from the foreground of the action when the wild tickle of lead trickles in out of nowhere – very difficult to describe in detail. The poignant moments of silence carefully manage the prominent riffs, with the track, overall, an excellent example of a chaos wrapped in order. At the 4:44 mark, when things start playing backwards, well…

“Eleven” delicately follows, a withdrawn acoustic riff accompanied by a xylophone; with the arrival of electric guitar, two distinctly different moods are set against each other in a collaboration of contrasts. One of my favourites, the arrival of an accordion/auto-harp/synth[?] is catchy and memorable. Overall, a soft track carefully surrounded by other domineering tracks, adding for some distinction. Similarly, “Lake Man” further into “Ghost”, employs this same softness and is also noteworthy.

Seeing as the music-scene of late seems parched [utterly barren…], “Ghost” is one of this years interesting albums, albeit acquired. ‘Matt Steven’s’ approach towards music is commendable, and it is certainly distinct in that an appearance of some like-other in the meanwhile is slim-to-none. Difference – I suppose in this circumstance – is key. So readers of the blog should listen with an open mind because any appreciation, any real enjoyment to be found, takes time and patience…

Reviewers Pick: “Eleven”

Stand-out Tracks: “Big Sky”, “Eleven”, “Lake Man”

Rating: 3.5/5
Until when,

The Enantiomorphic God

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~ by enantiomorphicgod on June 30, 2010.

4 Responses to ““Ghost” – ‘Matt Stevens’”

  1. Thanks loads for posting this – BTW the sounds on Eleven were……

    Guitars 🙂 thru a volume pedal so the sound like synths

    Thanks again

  2. I haven’t heard any synths or electric guitar in this album but one could be forgiven for thinking there were.
    This is an amazing album and I agree with the sentiment that one can get “stuck” to a track. Mine is “Burned out car”.

    This is a must listen to album, so you must.

  3. Ahhh! Oh well, we live and learn. Glad you liked it.

    Cheers,

    Enan-Alex

  4. Yup, my mistake – an interesting album. Sorry for these minor hiccups, guys…

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