Sunday, June 1, 2014
Matt Stevens - Lucid
About four years ago I was at winter NAMM in Anaheim, CA. Winter NAMM is the biggest private music industry trade show in the world. All of the well-known instrument, equipment, gadget, accessory and software manufacturers, and many boutique producers, show off their wares in the hope of bulk sales and landing retail dealers. The big manufacturers throw private parties in exclusive locations with live bands. The bands also usually appear at the NAMM show in their sponsor's booth and sign autographs for the masses that attend.
I have played guitar for over forty years and was intrigued by a device called a looper that, as its name suggests, allows you to record a phrase, repeat it indefinitely, manipulate the loop and layer on top of it. It is sort of like a one man band since you can basically put in any input you wish as a layer - a rhythm section, vocals, car horns, whatever. Digitech produces a delay/looper pedal combination called the "JamMan" that also has an integrated drum machine, stereo in and out, and large expandable memory, all for a very reasonable price. While I was at the show I made my way over to the Digitech booth to try out the delay/looper.
At the Digitech booth I was offered to passes to a Digitech private NAMM event that combined the finals of Digitech's Worldwide Looper Performance Contest and a concert by Yngwie Malmsteen at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. I accepted. The performances were incredible as contestants created and modded loops on the fly with a daisy-chained series of Digitech loopers. Malmsteen, as expected, was outstanding.
When I returned home I bought the delay/looper and have used it for some light overlays, to practice and to play by myself with accompaniment. I really have never unlocked the true potential of the device. Matt Stevens, however, on his album Lucid, does.
Stevens, is a solo guitarist from North London, U.K. Lucid is his latest looping music experiment and he has chosen some formidable personalities as lab workers. The album includes appearances by Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth), Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld), Jem Godfrey (Frost) and vibes player Jon Hart.
The album exhibits the technicality and tonality found in the music of King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The eleven tracks are a musical trip perfect for the blacklight. The entire recording is put together much like a symphony. There are prescient echos of recurring musical themes that build throughout the album and finally intertwine and burst forward in a combined fortissimo before they ebb and abruptly fade.
This is a challenging work that is definitely worth the effort. Critical listening reaps melodic rewards, passionate nuance and an appreciation of Stevens' arpeggiated approach to acoustic guitar enhanced by looper and band. Stevens amazes as he shows off the potential of the looper. It is not just another pedal or gadget. It becomes an essential part of Stevens' guitar tone and sound. You come to expect the unexpected as loops modulate and reverberate. You lose the ability to discern what is being played and what is being manipulated.
Get into the loop. Lucid is a masterwork that you should check out.
- Old School