North London’s Matt Stevens is an engaging guitarist, without question, but what really drew me into his Ghost was the vastness of it all. A lot of guitarists play showy, riff-heavy piles of indulgence when they string together instrumental records, but Ghost has a wholeness about it that floats through the album’s ten songs effortlessly.
Stevens is among the many DIYers out there currently forging through the exciting world of the “new” industry by self-promoting and putting out records for anybody anywhere. Like Trent Reznor, he makes his music available on a “pay what you will” basis.
When performing, Stevens uses his trusty acoustic guitar and a sampler to create his multi-layered tracks in a live setting. Noted for his “wall of sound,” he is an impressive and bewitching performer. On Ghost, his delicate command of the recording process gives the impression that he’s playing in front of a whole band.
The record opens with “Into the Sea.” The song almost feels like a noir classic. Stevens strikes notes expertly, bending them under the moonlight to his will. The haunting atmosphere he creates through guitar and simple percussion proves intoxicating on many levels.
The sparseness of “Into the Sea” gives way to the triumphant and full-sounding “Big Sky.” The tune is as expansive and bold as the title suggests, with Stevens pulling some electronic effects in for good measure. Notes pass like sliding clouds, white and replete with rich textures and invisible shapes waiting to be discovered.
“Lake Man” is one of my personal favourites. It is a clever arrangement, perfectly pieced together with gauzy atmospherics and a striking melody. Stevens’ layering is impeccable, creating a piece of music that blends into consciousness easily.
Stevens’ brand of acoustic instrumental music defies many of genre’s trappings. It doesn’t merely blend into the background. Instead, it creates musical scenery with lush arrangements and expert playing. His dedication to his craft borders on perfectionism and the passion he feels for his art is unmistakable.
Ghost is, fittingly, a haunting and dreamlike piece of work. The exploration of sound and melody that takes place on this record is absorbing, making Matt Stevens an all-too-rare surprise in the crowded but heartfelt DIY field of musicians.
Article originally published as I Hear Sparks: Matt Stevens – Ghost at Blogcritics.org