Delicate Steve is one of those un-categorizable groups that defy almost everything that seems safe and easy about music. Hailing from the Garden State, the band’s instrumental music is composed entirely by the titular guitarist / songwriter, Steve Marion, whose only musical consistency seems to be his bizarre but instantly recognizable guitar tone: equal parts MIDI track, pipe organ and electric guitar, there’s just nothing else quite like it out there. After releasing a debut album (WONDERVISIONS) and taking to the road with fellow genre-defiant, post-rock(?) allies Fang Island (along with backing band Mike Duncan, Adam Pumilia, Christian Peslak and Mickey Sanchez), Marion returns here with his sophomore offering: POSITIVE FORCE.
At a brisk 37-minutes, POSITIVE FORCE is as good a gateway into Delicate Steve’s music as any; it’s as eccentric, scatterbrained and oddly comforting as anything else that the musician has released thus far. Though the sonic texture seems on par with his debut, it’s hard to accurately judge just what “consistent” might be when your textures are as impossible to nail down as they are here. Still, it goes without saying that there is a general air of maturity that makes this a far more compelling release than the debut. There is an overall atmosphere that is generally less in-your-face about its eccentricities and more about creating a singular, oddly soothing tone that permeates the entirety of the record.
What Marion creates here that was missing from WONDERVISIONS is a sense of space -and there is certainly a lot of it. Almost space-rock-esque in its airy, electronic sensibilities, Marion injects POSITIVE FORCE with an irresistible, calming sensation that replaces the bouncing, bubbling absurdity of the last release. He’s certainly improved on his overall songwriting abilities, as well; screeching guitar lines make way to a far more meticulous compositional palette, and the instrumentation, as a result, tends to be far more interesting and balanced here. He even throws in a few instances of vocal texturing – something new for the project – on tracks like “Two Lovers”, “Love” and “Redeemer”, the latter of which bears an unmistakable, vocal aesthetic similarity to the equally experimental “Trembling Hands” off of Explosions in the Sky’s latest offering.
Whereas WONDERVISIONS was delightfully over-the-top and peculiarly refreshing, POSITIVE FORCE is breezy, looser and far more aesthetically pleasing – the mark of a maturing musician, no doubt. And with such a long career ahead of him, there’s no reason why Marion won’t continue to grow and impress from here on out.
Standout tracks: “Two Lovers”, “Positive Force”, “Africa Talks to You”.