Confession time, so indulge me a little here. I experience a condition which someone has named 'Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response'. What generally happens is that when I hear/see particular stimuli (which may seem innocuous to others), I get a euphorically pleasant sensation that starts in my neck and buzzes around my brain like it's being tickled. No external chemicals are involved, and lest you think I'm a total weirdo, there's even a Facebook group of about 1800 other weirdos like me trying to find out more about what this thing is that happens to them (trolls like to say: 'it's a tumour'). Anyway, all this is relevant to the latest BOTW because this Matt Stevens album, in particular the song 'Scapegoat', instilled this sensation in me despite music not being a regular trigger personally. Regardless of this, it is a work of beauty and genius, which is why I'd strongly encourage you to listen to the whole bloody thing.
Along with an acoustic guitar, he uses delay pedals, loops and drum machines to create tracks which are progressive (small p) but with a snappy, enduring pulse. For some reason, the music takes me right back to the reflective moods of 'Endtroducing' by DJ Shadow.
'Nightbus' reminds me of Radiohead's 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' with added pulsating krautiness, 60's detective themes and wonderful little repeating guitar doodles that squeak and flutter. Before it blooms into dark post-rock, title track 'Relic' manages to make acoustic guitar sound seriously nasty. There are some meaty breaks and beats on here too that shape the momentum of many tracks, like on the distorted cavalry charge of '20 GOTO 10'. I'm not sure it's cutting-edge sampling technology, but the sounds have a personable appeal which doesn't detract from their impact. There is both delicate charm and a free spirit in the playing: 'Rushden Fair' has a drone string rattling away like a berimbau under intricate folk picking.
On 'Up' the method switches; Stevens hits a single note repeatedly and builds melody around it with the electronics. And it all sounds coherent and pretty catchy, showing a respect for the song above any inclination to flaunt virtuosity. Then there's 'Scapegoat', a slowly-revolving snowflake crystal and 'Sand (part 2)', backwards-flowing and evocative. 'Frost' blasts out a fierce metal riff before layers of guitar weave another jazzy Spirograph. I start to think that I don't deserve to hear this for free, but I did and so can you at the Bandcamp link (before obviously buying every available format plus a hoodie with a picture of Matt's balls on, along with a 'Relic' coffee mug, using hard cash).
Posted: Mon 3 October 2011