Delicate Steve - Positive Force
By: Rob Gannon
Headphone music is an umbrella term seemingly applied to anything difficult, expansive, niche, technical or, most commonly, instrumental or largely so. There’s also a wilful sense of superiority to the term on which we won’t dwell here save for to say that melodic electronic enthusiast Steve Marion may be more comfortable if we hereby refer to his Positive Force LP as a guitar record instead for said instrument does dominate most tracks sitting pretty alongside great swathes of vintage synthesizing.
It’s fair to state then that Marion is continuing in the footsteps of the best-of-list-making Wondervisions, running perhaps freer still with the wooziness this time around. The title track, for example, is full of come-hither laptronics and sun-dappled acoustic slide. In turn, “Two Lovers” is impossibly chilled, its rare vocal a lovely shuffle amidst a daydream. From there Marion explores 60s psyche-pop by way of Caribbean vibes in “Wally Wilder” and further percussive world-beats on “Tallest Heights”. Things get a little more leftfield for the droning synth of “Touch” and altogether experimental ambient via cicada chirrups, emotive piano and what could be a Theremin on the closer “Luna”.
Nevertheless it’s Marion’s guitar work that rises to Positive Force‘s surface time and time again be it with the lazy-day progressions on the “Ramona Reborn” jam or when flexing tumbling tricks and distortion on “Big Time Receiver”, but it’s “Love” that is the real takeaway – reminiscent of Eric Clapton at his most ponderous whilst trying to out-harmony Brian Wilson.
Marion mostly does a grand job of making his instrumentals sing, but that the best two cuts here do feature a vocal is perhaps telling. It’s not that the pieces need a vocal – far from it – but rather that they seem to work so well with one that one can’t but lament what could have been with further judicious selection in this area. Maybe then we’d have been talking about a record strong enough to punch its way out of the confines of the headphone genre.
Advised downloads: “Two Lovers” and “Love”.
Mature Themes is given a UK release on the 3rd September 2012 on Luaka Bop.