Following in the tradition of Les Paul and his ‘Paulverizer’, Matt Stevens is a ‘looping guitarist’ who builds live multi-track compositions using primarily a DL4 Looper and an Ibanez acoustic guitar. His first album, Echo, established his musical ‘voice’. Ghost, his second album, takes that voice and expands its range, dexterity and purpose. He takes his training in jazz guitar and admiration of John McLaughlin and Django Reindhardt to new areas with every song. His The Fierce and the Dead bandmates, Kevin Feazey and Stuart Marshall are on hand, adding a dash of percussion and bass, a hint of synth and a light topping of glockenspiel. Despite all the extras, it’s still Stevens and his guitar that are the show.
The album flows with a steady buildup in instrumentation and diversity of rhythm and melody. Beginning with “Into the Sea”, the mood is set. Rolling along like waves in Classical guitar style, into staccato 1/8th note chord voicings. All the while, a solo guitar outlines the melody. Later, on “Draw”, full drums come into play. They add an insistence to the piece, as more guitar parts are layered and a low octave guitar thunders as bass. By the break, the guitar arpeggio is doubled by more dissonant lines and backward guitar tracks, until the wash suddenly stops. Other songs that stand out to me are the almost dirge-like “Late Man”, with an increasingly urgent drumbeat that sounds beautifully anthem-like. Also, the title song “Ghost”- which begins with an odd-timed bassline. Joined by volume swells that add an ethereal and ghostly (yes, I said it) sound.
This album is recommended for anyone who enjoys inventive acoustic guitar with latino-jazz rhythms and melodies that push the compositional envelope. If you like acoustic-based jazz fusion, Frippertronics or Gypsy guitar, you’ll love Ghost!