Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Matt Stevens' post-rock keeps the listener close

November 9, 2011

Matt Stevens is a prolific guy. Fresh off playing guitar for post-rockers The Fierce and the Dead’s If It Carries On Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe, Stevens released a whole album of guitar-based post-rock under his own name. Just as If It Carries was a moving and emotive album, Relic is an evocative and fascinating collection of songs.

Stevens’ control of rhythm, melody and atmosphere make this album. Anyone can write a melody, but turning it into something unexpected melodically and rhythmically while supporting the piece with the right feel is a unique skill. Opener “Nightbus” is the perfect example of this, as it warps relatively common rhythms and melodies into a singular piece.

These instrumentals draw heavily on post-rock, trip-hop and acoustic rock for inspiration, but it’s all filtered through a keen sense of what an acoustic guitar can and can’t do. Stevens knows when it’s time to break out the electric guitar, and when to let the acoustic do it’s thing. This results in organic-feeling pieces like “Up” (check the handclaps!) and “Rusty,” as well as polished post-rockers like opener “Nightbus” and the uniquely digitized “20 GOTO 10.”

However, the not-problem problem of his former album continues in the latter album: Stevens is so good at all the aspects of post-everything indie rock that the album lacks flow in places. This is nowhere more prominent than in “Frost,” which starts off with a churning section of metal that would make some modern-day thrashers envious of its heaviness. It is a jarring contrast with the rest of the album, and especially its direct predecessor “Sand (Part 2),” a highly atmospheric piece that draws on trip-hop and jazz.

Still, it’s hard to knock Matt Stevens’ Relic. It’s obvious just from listening that a ton of thought has gone into this record, but the album doesn’t often sound intimidating. The tunes here are awe-inspiring in a majestic, soundtrack-to-my-own-life sort of way; they rarely devolve into towering, look-how-awesome-I-am pieces (Dragonforce, AWAY!). It’s that listener connection that makes all the genre-jumping palatable: it feels real and relatable. Highly recommended for fans of post-rock.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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