Review: Matt Stevens – Ghost

Matt Stevens not only stands as an accomplished guitarist and composer, but also a cracking example for anyone looking to bring an admirable listenership to their own DIY projects. Alongside his frequent live performances across the UK, Matt has promoted his work via blogs, websites and podcasts – not to mention adopting the “pay what you want” approach to Ghost, which is his second full-length following Echo in 2008.

Ghost works best when everything feels inseparable, with the chorus of acoustic guitars and accompanying instruments merging into what appears to be a single, focused idea brought to life rather than several loosely connected thoughts tacked together. This is exactly why “Into the Sea” is such a strong opening piece, with its moody 5/4 opening melting into a brilliant second half of staccato jabs and jagged melody. Texturally it’s so simple – just acoustic guitars and a percussive dusting in the form of a shaker and what sounds like desk-tapping or foot-stomping something – but the melodies are fluid and mesmeric, not to mention executed with a water-tight precision. “Burnt Out Car” is similar in the way which it carries itself so coolly, with a summery off-beat groove paving the way for delicately harmonised leads to dance over the top.

Unfortunately not every track on Ghost comes across so effortless. Some of these pieces feel somewhat limited by the arguably overused acoustic guitar; moments at which other instruments decorate the soundscapes are expertly implemented (the pretty glockenspiel on “Draw” for example), and offer a mere glimpse of what could have happened if these compositions were permitted to burst open and explore a greater variety of sound. It’s particularly apparent where tracks drift into extensive repetition, only for an uninspiring lead part to meander aimlessly over the top – for every moment of fully-exploited creative brilliance, there seems to be another that merely hints at its own potential.

But there’s more than enough here to prove that Matt Stevens is a definite talent. I’m confident that future releases will pick out the elements of Ghost that are really, really brilliant and use them to fuel much more well-rounded compositions. In the meantime, this is perfectly enjoyable.