Delicate Steve- Wondervisions

written by: March 22, 2011
Delicate Steve Wondervisions Album Cover Release Date: January 25, 2011


Instrumental bands aren’t getting a lot of press coverage right now, but that didn’t stop Delicate Steve from putting out an album chock-full of excellent guitar work—unfortunately at the expense of almost everything else.

Steve’s debut, Wondervisions, is so focused on guitar that it takes focus to see if the album features any other instruments at all. At the forefront of each song is an upper-register guitar riff that sounds a bit like math rock played for a Hawaiian luau.

It has the unique ability to be both heavily syncopated and relaxed, and the character brought by its twangs and liquid pitch make it easily the most interesting musical element on the album.

Accompanying that is usually a rhythm guitar and a very simple drum pattern. Percussion (frequently only maracas) hides so far in the back that listeners must actively search for it, which often leaves the album lacking a proper pulse or drive. Synths appear in a few select tracks but exist only to emphasize the importance of the guitar and sometimes feel like an afterthought.

While Steve’s dedication to minimalism must be respected, it’s particularly unfortunate that when he does build his sound by adding more consistent drums and heavier, distorted backing guitar on the track “Butterfly,” it creates what is easily the most compelling sound on the entire release. A few more tracks that build the way it does would’ve made the album much more powerful.

An album entirely about guitars can be pulled off if done correctly, but Wondervisions ultimately leaves listeners with nothing to grab onto. Though the album is immediately accessible, nothing really screams out for repeat listens; the sound doesn’t have that kind of depth.

The content might be a little too sugary-sweet to have much lasting appeal, but the album as a whole is actually structured rather well. Clocking in at almost 30 minutes, Wondervisions knows its greatest strength lies in its brevity. That might sound like a jab at the music, but it absolutely isn’t. An album this candy-coated could easily begin to aggravate listeners if it drags on too long. This release’s short burst of intensely upbeat guitar is exactly the right length, a quick in and quick out that leaves the album feeling perky instead of overblown or bloated.

Most of the tracks on the album have a very similar vibe, but they are thankfully broken up by a number of quick (usually in the realm of 30-35 seconds) spacey, lo-fi intermissions. The tone shift these breaks supply keeps the album feeling much fresher than it would’ve if they had kept their trademark sound constant.

As an album, Wondervisions bravely tries something different, and while it doesn’t get the kind of depth and repeatability that excellent music needs, it does create a surprisingly enjoyable experience, even if that experience is a little shallow. Perfect for low-key parties or backyard barbecues, but not really the sort of music for highly personal listening.

Delicate Steve – Wondervisions Tracklist:

  1. “Welcome-Begin”
  2. “The Ballad of Speck and Pebble”
  3. “Source (Connection)”
  4. “Sugar Splash”
  5. “Attitude/Gratitude”
  6. “Source (Construction)”
  7. “Wondervisions”
  8. “Z Expression”
  9. “Don’t Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)”
  10. “Source (Bridge)”
  11. “Butterfly”
  12. “Flyin’ High”