Thursday, 4 August 2011

In my August show: Matt Stevens

Very occasionally you encounter an artist who works in a fairly familiar idiom but whose technique and output is so outstanding it raises him above pretty much everybody else and makes any attempt at categorisation ludicrous. So to call Matt Stevens simply a virtuoso guitarist would be like labelling Picasso 'a painter'. If you're going to put what Matt does in a box, leave the label off, put him in there with the great John Fahey and leave it at that.

Listening to Fahey on Peel shows many years ago, it always enthralled me that someone who, on the face of it, simply made instrumental guitar music could produce something so earth-shattering. Not until I found Matt Stevens did I encounter someone of comparable worth. I played a track from his 'Ghost' album in my show earlier in the year, and I'm following that with a live version of 'Moondial' in my August show, which you can hear on Dandelion Radio at various times throughout the month.

Other than Fahey, it's really difficult to compare the experience of listening to Matt Stevens to that of other solo guitarists. The thrill of the ride is much more akin to what I get from a Mogwai album or the adrenhalin rush of the much-loved Vert:x or The Chasms (incidentally there's a phenomal new track from the latter also in my August show). When you check out Matt's upcoming 'Relic' album on his bandcamp site, you'll find he's tagged it with labels like post-rock and even progressive rock as well as 'acoustic instrumental' and this is probably nearer the mark.

That someone holding no more than an acoustic guitar can take you somewhere so transcendent tells you much about the artist in question and also says something about the continuing thrill of truly great music, still giving so much after so many years. That the guitar in particular is not the spent force so many thought it would be by now is due in no small measure to people like Matt Stevens. We should cherish him and the fact that his kind inhabit the same planet as us.

'Relic' is available for pre-order at Matt's bandcamp site, and I note there are very few left. If you're one of the many who've got your pre-order in already, you're clearly a person of considerable taste. To others of considerable taste, or who aspire to be, I recommend you get across there right now.

Mark W

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