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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recording review - Delicate Steve, Positive Force (2012)

Delicate Steve's unique sound creates a happy hippy mood

Delicate Steve's new album Positive Force comes out next month. It's a solid follow up to his earlier release, Wondervisions. Guitarist Steve Marion continues his experimental compositions, this time capturing a retro, hippy optimism. It's cheery pop, yet earnestly heartfelt.

Like Wondervisions, the new album is largely instrumental. Backing vocals creep in, but Marion's guitar sings in the place of lead vocals. "Sings" is the operative word. Marion's guitar is fluid as it slides through his melodies. His phrasing often suggests a lyrical flow.

While Marion played all the instruments on Positive Force, the guitar is the centerpiece. His tone is unique. It's closest to Adrian Belew's synth guitar, but more geared towards wild pitch shifts. At times, his effects make it hard to identify as guitar.

The opening track, Ramona Reborn serves as the perfect introduction to Positive Force. The '60s psychedelic pop feel celebrates a George Harrison toned slide guitar. The theme promises redemption and all good things in their time as it repeats like the coda from Layla.

A couple of tracks later, Two Lovers' ambient beginning sets the space for acoustic lines to coalesce into a song. The relaxed pop rhythm loops languorously. The guitars here are much less processed, creating more natural vibe in comparison with the synth-like, frequency shifted guitar sound that Delicate Steve tends to favor. The backing vocals set up the Beach Boys harmonies on the following track, Big Time Receiver.

One of my favorite tracks, Afria Talks To You offers a hint of Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain in the intro. The percussion recalls Peter Gabriel's work, but I really like the simple, clean guitar line in the middle section. It's easy to imagine lyrics here but the impact is stronger letting the guitar sing instead.

Delicate Steve's compositions on Positive Force place more emphasis on pop oriented songs, even as his guitar work remains edgy and experimental. Sometimes, it takes on an insistent whine as the notes soar ever higher, but the album is still warm and inviting.

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