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.
Though the album is largely instrumental, in many ways Marion’s guitar acts as his voice. While he performed every single note of music on the disc, it’s clear from the start that the guitar is the core of the album. On the intensely rhythmic “Afria Talks to You”, a super-smooth boom-clap groove and haunting slide make the backbone, but Marion’s twangy lead works out a melody over the top, wrangling out verses, but always returning to a chorus of sorts. The light, skipping world pop jam “Wally Wilder” coos and lolls, the lead guitar once again providing something akin to a George Harrison swoon, the pitch-shifted tones bent and wrung beautifully.
A few moments on the disc do drag a little, like the too-brief Feels-era Animal Collective-y interlude “Touch”, or the overlong, relatively nondescript island breeze of “Two Lovers”, but the all-encompassing positive vibes carry the day. The funky sweep of “Tallest Heights” and the gritty theatricality of “Big Time Receiver” both feature some of the best guitar work you’ll hear all year, but this is merely the hook to show you the kind of fun grooves that Marion can construct. While other guitarists this talented would want their shredding to be the thing you take away from an instrumental album, Marion uses it as one tool (a strong tool to be sure, but a tool) in the production of a set of bright, funky, fun jams.
Essential Tracks: “Afria Talks to You”, “Wally Wilder”