[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Sieben’s latest album surreptitiously appeared in the inbox last week and I must say that it’s quite a treat to listen to. The melodies are stronger than ever, Howden’s playing sinuously wends it’s way to and fro through these elegant pieces like a rich, caramel ribbon. Surrounding these delicate accents are the songs themselves which are by turns heartbroken and heart-felt. I cannot put it any other way, the words I’m hearing on “Each Divine Spark” reach out from the ether to ensnare the listener in their misanthropic vines. As though you’ve just been tossed into a patch of razor sharp thorns issuing forth from the roses of the damned.
Matt is singing better than I’ve yet heard him, he’s got a few things on his mind and while the loops are more abundant than ever, I find their range expanded and refined as though they’ve been purged by fire. I don’t know what the circumstances are that brought about this change but the fragile nature of these songs really allow you to focus in on the individual parts as never before. If I had to employ some kind of analogy here, I’d equate what is on here to a cross sectional cut which reveals the innermost workings of the machine which we call Sieben. Absolutely mournful and agonizingly bittersweet; by the mid-point I’m completely capitulating to what I’m hearing.
We all know this guy’s track record and to be quite sure we’ve yet to be let down. My experience with his main project here is limited but from what I’ve been exposed to, this is quite frankly the best work he’s done yet under this name. I’ve mainly enjoyed his solo works and hold the two albums he’s released with his father Keith as almost a holy experience; Sieben’s continual evolution of sound is now threatening to overtake and upset the order I rank his releases in. Are these ballads, are they dirges are they expositions on personal exploration… if I knew I’d tell you, really, but once again Matt Howden cuts his own path on these twelve new ones and no one could do it better.
People are going to look back on this release as the one where Sieben broke through and ventured off the path they’d been on. You can try to place where you’ve heard him like this before and there have been hints, wisps of promise, a teasing sense of premonition. There’s still a bit of a wait which the rest of you are going to have to endure, I hope it passes quickly because these songs are just too good to keep under wraps forever. He’s had inspired moments throughout his career, however, I don’t know if they’ve ever been assembled in a row on just one album. Some of this is downright groovy, not static in the least; trying to sit still during a number like “The National Anthem of Somewhere” is a rather, ahem, mighty task to undertake.
The interwoven pattern of this album grows only more precise and detailed with each listen, going through ‘Each Divine Spark’ again as I write this I’m now detecting additional nuances of that violin wending about in the background for a note here… a note there… beauty, such absolute beauty is everywhere.