Guitarist Matt Stevens is already well-known both with his live looping as a solo artist and as lead guitarist of the instrumental four-piece The Fierce And The Dead. His previous album, 2011′s “Relic” focussed on his looped acoustic guitar, while his band emphasised interlocking electric guitars. His new release “Lucid” has moments of both, but this record sees him move forward into more diverse sonic territories than either.
The album features a strong cast of supporting musicians, including King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto, Jem Godfrey of Frost* and violinist Chrissie Caulfield alongside a host of others. Matt’s influences range from post-punk through progressive rock to extreme metal, and you can hear all of those on this record.
Like everything he’s done before, this is an album of instrumental songs rather than of guitar chops. It’s not about widdly-woo lead, with the sole exception of the King Crimson-like “Ascent” where he cuts loose with a quite astonishingly fluid and off-the-wall solo. It’s as if Matt is saying he can shred with the best of them if he wants to, but finds instrumental composition more interesting than technical showboating.
The whole thing is immensely varied; there are delicately melodic acoustic pieces alongside denser electric numbers built around heavy distorted riffs. On “Coulrophobia” Jon Hart’s spooky vibraphone adds an extra dimension to the layered tapestry of acoustic guitars. All but one the songs are short, most hovering around the three minute mark. The one exception is “The Bridge”, a kaleidoscopic epic that covers most of the ground of the rest of the album in its eleven-minute length.
The whole thing is an ambitious and varied work that defies easy genre pigeonholing. Matt Stevens has been one of the more interesting, innovative and genre-busting artists in the contemporary progressive scene for a while now, and this album sees him raise his game to a new level.