New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist Steve Marion, better known to music lovers as Delicate Steve, undoubtedly believes in the D.I.Y. aesthetic. Not only did he play everything on his second album, Positive Force, himself, he engineered and mixed the whole damn thing on his own. But Positive Force never feels like an airless, claustrophobic kind of project, as so many bedroom pop records by one-man bands can. Instead, it’s a light, breezy affair that seems to take its title quite literally. Steve is part of the New York-centered indie art-pop scene that includes acts like Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, and Callers, and like them, he makes life-affirming music that’s about opening up to possibilities and embracing as many musical colors as one can comfortably keep together under one aesthetic roof. Call it “Yes Wave” as opposed to No Wave.
On Positive Force, Steve‘s muse leads him from the homey and pastoral to the spacey and celestial, but his incisive guitar work is at the core of everything. You might be tempted to label this predominantly instrumental album post-rock, but it contains none of the cerebral, lab-experiment feel sometimes associated with that tag. There’s an undeniable world music lilt to these tracks, which may be part of the reason Delicate Steve ended up on the internationally minded Luaka Bop label in the first place. If anything, it’s a pan-ethnic sensibility that plays out over the course of the record, as Hawaiian-tinged slide guitar lines tumble out over grooves that mix Caribbean and African influences with who knows what else. For what it’s worth, Steve himself actually claims that classic rock was a primary inspiration for the album. If that means the guitar lines that are the focus of each song — and sometimes they do admittedly have a George Harrison feel to them — are built to last, then it all makes perfect sense.