(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CD review - Delicate Steve, Wondervisions (2011)

Let's get a couple of things out of the way. Delicate Steve is a stupid name for a band and their press release tries way too hard for hipster quirk:
Like a hydro-electric Mothra rising from the ashes of an African village burned to the ground by post-rock minotaurs, the music of Delicate Steve will literally make you the happiest person who has never lived.
One more swing and a miss like that, and I can save myself from contributing more attention to another "ironic" band already working out their next in-joke. I'll give it the short browse listen: sampling bits of two or three random tracks. Then I can move on to something more worthwhile.

I think it was sometime in the middle of track 2 (The Ballad of Speck and Pebble) that I realized I was forgetting to skip ahead. By track 8, I was arguing with myself over whether to finish the album before I started it over again. The several electronic Source interludes looked to be a foul tip, but then Source ((BRIDGE)) redeemed the set with a cool ambient Fripp-Eno sound.

Wondervisions, just out yesterday, could be called experimental instrumental, but it's effectively genre-less. Many of the songs are layered guitar centered compositions that made me think of Eric Johnson with rougher edges. There's a primitive element to the guitar parts, emphasized by the heavy percussion. But the combination, along with bits of keyboard is intriguing. The short pieces feel like small display boxes or dioramas. Repetition and layering unfold to reveal unexpected details in each one's theme.

While there is continuity from track to track, the sounds vary all over the map. The Ballad of Speck and Pebble is a psychedelic mix of Paul Simon and the Beatles' Two Of Us. And none of either, as it bounces to a more modern indie rock sound.

Similarly, Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants) takes the descending chord line from Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed and erects a joyous affirmation that destroys any sense of direct derivation. The mood shift is particularly elegant and savory. Each time around the changes adds in a little more detail. Bits early Pink Floyd (Free Four) and George Harrison round out the arrangement.

Elsewhere on Wondervisions, there are Adrian Belew moments, Brian May style chorused guitar lines, and more surprises. More from the press release:
...Wondervisions, the indescribable 12-track instrumental debut that reconstructs influences as diverse as Yes, Vampire Weekend, The Fall, Ravi Shankur, 10 cc, The Orbital, Jann Hammer, the first half of OK Computer, the second act of The Wizard of Oz, and the final pages of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.
What Delicate Steve really has is a sense of more-ness. Like sampling the perfect mix of malt and hops, that taste left afterwards is the desire for... more. Ignore the overblown press and listen for yourself. Ultimately, the music is all that matters.

1 comment:

  1. I love the name, particularly after listening to the CD a few times. Like the music, it really grows on you. Seriously talented. And from New Jersey!