Release Date: Jul 10, 2012
Record label: Luaka Bop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
To say electronic music is prominent in today’s up-and-coming (or in some cases, came-and-maybe-already-went) scene is an understatement. What’s notable about Delicate Steve is not necessarily guitarist Steve Marion’s apt electronic contribution, but his songwriting and reference to earlier musicality that could be easily overlooked. Delicate Steve understands and is equally intrigued by what you can do with a great vintage synthesizer, but his George Harrison/Eric Clapton-esque guitar melodies are what make this album worth listening to.
By sliding up and down and bending his guitar strings, Delicate Steve explores a world of musical styles and sounds and lands on something that is best described as Asian blues. Each song brings a different spot on the globe to mind, and with vocals limited to the occasional oohs and ahhs, Positive Force can be understood in any language. Sit back, listen and enjoy the trip.
Life can get you down, no matter how vigorously you love thy neighbor or accentuate the silver lining. Surely, it’s a blessing to be alive, but it’s a struggle to stay positive in a world of such grim despair. Sometimes, we just need to escape the mundane, to find a personal utopia that remains true, even if for a fleeting moment in time. It seems ‘Delicate’ Steve Marion harbors similar feelings, if Positive Force is an indication.
Cartoons and kids' films always promised that behind the walls, under the floorboards, beneath a city, exist perfect miniature worlds more wonderful than our own. To promote his new record, Delicate Steve-- aka 25-year old guitarist Steve Marion-- hid play-buttons around Brooklyn and Manhattan for people to plug their headphones into and hear Positive Force ahead of release; hook up to one at Valentino Pier to hear Steve's chandelier psychedelia, and you might believe you'd just jacked into the heart of a secret world powered by raw joy. Though Marion's real-life existence seems equally paradisiacal: He hails from New Jersey, where he's part of the Smallboypants collective, most of whom play in his live band.
On Positive Force, Steve's muse leads him from the homey and pastoral to the spacey and celestial, but his incisive guitar work is at the core of everything. You might be tempted to label this predominantly instrumental album post-rock, but it contains none of the cerebral, lab-experiment feel sometimes associated with that tag. There's an undeniable world music lilt to these tracks, which may be part of the reason Delicate Steve ended up on the internationally minded Luaka Bop label in the first place.
When it comes down to it, I’m not sure that Steve Marion is really trying to make a great album. I think he’s trying to make the best Delicate Steve album he can. And, if there’s nothing else to say about Positive Force, it’s at least clear that he’s succeeded in doing exactly that. Marion’s guitar and synth bedroom pop project continues to be immediately enjoyable, simply because he never seems to be reaching for something that’s outside of his grasp.
The whimsical tone and ingratiating melodies of Delicate Steve’s Wondervisions made for an endlessly likable debut that was an easier sell than many other instrumental rock albums, which tend to get bogged down in proggy self-indulgences. For Positive Force, man-behind-the-curtain Steve Marion sidelines the outside players who collaborated with him on Wondervisions, composing and performing the album entirely on his own. And while that makes for an impressive technical accomplishment, Positive Force emerges as a slightly more insular, stuffy effort.
There are few electric guitar masterminds putting their expertise to such unique ends as Steve Marion does under the project heading Delicate Steve. On 2011’s excellent debut, Wondervisions, Marion established his musical skills, utilizing his guitar like some sort of mystical synthesizer that (with only a few pedals) could just as easily sound like island-inflected plinks to tribal squawks. On the follow-up, Positive Force, he’s at it again, once more crafting an album in which virtuosity works toward the achievement of focused songcrafting rather than acting as its own end.
Like 2011’s Wondervisions, Positive Force is a creation straight out of Steve Marion’s parents’ basement in rural New Jersey. But this music doesn’t sound like it came from any windowless depths; Delicate Steve’s latest is a happy force whose intention is to “get people all excited and uplifted.” Steve puts that plan to work with opening cut “Ramona Reborn.” His electric guitar slides and wails throughout, and the soothing track comes to a chilling close as it slowly fades away, preparing you for the light and bubbly “Wally Wilder.” With its meandering riffs and splashes of Afro-pop, the track is unforgettably fun.“Two Lovers” changes the mood. It’s smooth, sensual and completely alluring.