On Second Thought: Delicate Steve – Positive Force (2012)

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When people try to describe Delicate Steve, they generally start speaking in roundabout terms which, more often than not, create a strong visual but fail to capture the sound. A multi-instrumentalist originally from Northern New Jersey, Delicate Steve is the moniker of Steve Marion — whose music works as a mixture of progressive-rock, folk, African rhythm, and pop or surf-rock.

Positive Force, the follow up to 2011’s Wondervision, begins with “Ramona Reborn,” which works like a three-minute introduction to the album — and to Delicate Steve. This may seem like an obvious observation, but very few bands know how to introduce their album to the listener. There is an art to it, and Delicate Steve — with this song’s big beat and infinitely optimistic and positive vibrations — has it down pat.

“Two Lovers” then unfolds with distant ambient synthesizers, suddenly shifting into what is almost a pure DNA extraction of John Frusciante fused with Van Morrison. A dense swirl of additional instrumentation lifts the track into a more magical ether. With such a title, clearly its a romantic ballad, which makes it highly subversive fun in this modern age of music.

One of the albums great tracks has to be “Big Time Receiver,” which calls to mind Ween’s album The Mollusk. Steve’s guitar playing on this track bends into the realm of the synthesizer, while not getting so lost in analogue waveforms that it would lose all characteristics of the instrument. The vocal harmonies on this track would make Brian Wilson blush, though there are no lyrics to be found — and there certainly is no need for them.

“Touch” veers a bit too close to the Panda Bear paradigm in its lean 1:03 running time, but the accordion is a welcome touch. It’s a shame that the song wasn’t further developed, because it deserves something much larger and grandiose instead of serving as a transition between Sides A and B. There’s a bit of schmaltz on the title song, but Steve knows precisely when to dispense with acoustic picking and drop some electric lead. And while it’s not one of the albums strongest tracks, the possibility exists that this could grow into a good live number, something to relax the house for a stretch.

For those who eat up Sigur Ros records like Pac-Man gobbles white pellets, Positive Force has come to serve quite probably as the next big thing.

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Mike Dostert

Mike Dostert

Luxembourg resident Mike Dostert has written about music for more than two decades, with work appearing in a local newspaper, via his own independent music magazine and at the web sites www.music-brain.com and lux-culture.jimdo.com. He has also worked for 20 years as a DJ and radio host. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mike Dostert
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