If you search the name Matt Stevens in hypemachine a single track is all that is offered, ‘Spencer Park’, from Steven’s debut LP Echo. The track, worthy of far more than the meagre 15 hearts it currently boasts, is a multi-layered, atmospheric celebration of guitar set against an off-time beat in a fashion not dissimilar to Mice Parade. The song’s engaging minimalism is at times lost to extravagant outbursts of Spanish guitar, a sound commonly associated with Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Ghost is the second album from the london based instrumentalist. It serves as a welcome reminder as to just how powerful and beautiful the acoustic guitar can be. Unlike ‘Spencer Park’ however, the focus of Ghost is on the minimal. It’s abundantly apparent that Stevens has a special command over the guitar but he favours enticing, carefully crafted tracks over self-indulgent embellishment. ‘Big Sky’ is defined by the simple riff which remains a constant from start to finish.
The most impressive feat achieved by Stevens on Ghost is what is notably lacking among the likes of Rod y Gab, variety. Admiration for technical ability is something quite removed from attachment to a song. Whether it’s the starry glockenspiel on ‘Eleven’ and ‘Glide’ or the haunting presence of orchestral strings on title track ‘Ghost’, Steven’s always conjures up something a little extra to nail down the desired atmosphere. The result is an album baring that all-encompassing, cinematic sound which draws you in without the need to utter a word.
If all this wasn’t enough to win you over then throw the fact that Stevens, perhaps taking a realistic approach to the world of illegal streaming, provides his albums on a pay what you want basis. Both Ghost and Echo are available for download from his bandcamp site.