Indeed, it’s the sheer weight of Stevens’ latest that had me doing double takes and frequent repeats. His record is massive in scale and vision, impressing not just with the structure of his compositions but with his kitchen-sink approach to musicality. The North London native’s multi-track guitar looping is well beyond the realm of my expertise, but the manipulation and sprawling nature of his playing is beyond anything I’ve heard lately.
Drums, bass, and a whack of other instruments charge out of the box to join Stevens’ guitar. This creates an album that expands on the foundation laid by Ghost in a way that doesn’t alienate the past work. Relic builds on history, intensifying with such stability and atmosphere that one can’t help but be transfixed by what this talent has put to record.
“Nightbus” opens the album and the Radiohead touches are clear. A groove is set and the song is built on top, prattling along with a haunting step that seems prepped exclusively for Thom Yorke’s voice. At the same time, Stevens’ delightful lines serve as “vocals” all their own, creating a web of sound that captures the listener immediately.
Electronic influences and more atmospherics also serve their purpose on “20 Goto 10.” This piece is built on enduring beads of sound and splashes of guitar. Stevens builds the tension gorgeously, utilizing crumpled percussion that would make Trent Reznor jealous.
There are moments of defiant beauty, too, with the exquisite guitar of “Rushden Fair” or the waterfall-like grains of “Scapegoat.”
And then there’s the sudden heavy-metal attack of “Frost.” The second-to-last track on the record is a heavily distorted whirlwind of power-playing and fragmented movements. Stevens guides the piece as a pure rocker, proving his chops as a headbanger.
An expansive, beautiful piece of work, Relic is a step in the right direction for Matt Stevens. Having promoted the album himself through the use of social networking sites and new media, his passion for his art is clear. Happily, this cat’s got the aptitude and vision to back it all up.