Listening Again: Matt Stevens’ Lucid

I have a lot of music available to me to listen to, and I am fairly certain I am not unique in focusing on recent finds and monumental foundation stones. This is expedient perhaps but deprives me of the joys of music in between these gravity wells. So I am delighted to have rediscovered Matt Stevens’ 2014 album Lucid.

I discovered Matt as a solo steel-string guitar and loop pedal player. He put on some stunning shows and recorded some lovely music in that form that is well worth your time too. He is now perhaps best known as part of The Fierce And The Dead (also worth a listen).

This album stands a little off to the side of these other projects, but it deserves more of my attention and perhaps yours too.

I have a sense that Matt really wanted to say what this album presents. It feels like a personal project and I find that drawing me in. He is ably supported in realising this by musicians like Charlie Cawood and Stuart Marshall. There is also the midwifery of Kevin Feazey (also of The Fierce And The Dead) as producer to thank for this album.

To try to describe the album, prog is probably the large blanket that covers this. The Ascent is redolent of King Crimson’s Red era and even features Pat Mastelotto on drums. However, there are many threads to this.

There are many things I love about this album, it manages to present varied work from track to track while holding a cohesive identity, it is an intelligent work without being forbidding and it feels honest. To the last point, there are some edges and grit in here. Risks were taken and we can hear some of that in the finished album. It is not all smooth but the lumpy bits give a glimpse of the skill and effort that went into the making of this album.

Just Practice

There are no shortcuts. Walking the whole path is what defines the destination. Becoming a skilled musician happens by walking the miles it takes to get there. There are a few things that might make it easier for you,

  • Talent might make the journey more pleasant for you
  • A good teacher might save you some fruitless meanders
  • Having the resources to put as much time as possible into practice will get you there quicker

There is so much to learn and the landscape you will traverse opens up as you go. There will be some tough choices along the way as you can’t do everything. There isn’t enough time to cover all the ground.

This all came back to me watching Two Set Violin on YouTube. They have lots of fun while pointing this, and more out. The mythical Ling Ling practising 40 hours a day is the standard to aspire to. How good you become is about how hard you work not whatever ephemeral talents you might have started with.

Everyone you have ever heard who sounded amazing put in the hours. The clever and lucky ones managed some kind of efficiency to the journey. There is no substitute for the time there are no shortcuts. Walk the path and try to enjoy the journey.

Music That Shaped Me: Blue Trane

Like lots of people who have an abiding interest in music, there have been a few moments that I can single out as pivotal in drawing me in. When I was small much of what grabbed me was the exuberant fun of punk/post-punk/new wave etc. In my mid-teens I found jazz. I had hated the smooth swing and trad varieties I had heard before finding bop and the musics that desended from it.

Punk slapped me in the face and woke me up. Jazz was more of a slow impact, but it hit me. One of the really cool things about moving to New York City as a teenager was getting to go to clubs that had previously just been part of the names of live albums. New York felt like a jazz city in a way that London didn’t (it is but it’s a little more under the surface and I didn’t see it as a teenager).

Blue Train is the first jazz album I really fell in love with. I had heard a fair bit before including some great albums like Kind of Blue (that Coltrane contributes massively to also), but there was something about this album that grabbed me and it has stayed with me.