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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

MATTHEW STEWART: A World Bathed in Sunlight (2016)

Matthew Stewart fulfills the musical richness of Spotted Peccary by offering a first opus filled of thematic visions on modern New Age structures

1 A World Bathed in Sunlight 5:15 2 Unearthing the Arks 4:20 3 Cave of Stars 5:58 4 Who Stays, Who goes 5:38 5 The Last Day on Earth 6:08 6 Falling Stone 3:48 7 Aftermath 6:13 8 The Journey Away 7:05 9 The Dust Settles 6:33 10 Canvas 4:52 Spotted Peccary Music | SPM-3101

(CDigipack/DDL/Spotify 55:53) (Modern American New Age) (V.F.)

Multi-instrumentalist of San Diego, Matthew Stewart is the new discovery of the American label Spotted Peccary. Produced with the help of Deborah Martin, A WORLD BATHED IN SUNLIGHT is a first album which shows a skillful talent of music writer and arranger where guitars, for the most part acoustics, pianos, keyboards, bass and percussions unify their sounds and tones in order to create powerful synth moods as much ethereal for such rhythmic structures as cinematographic.

The title-track opens on a breakthrough of sun which illuminates a piano nevertheless very meditative, otherwise nostalgic. The melody is almost sad and small pearls of sequences spread a rivulet of carillons while a line of low layer its sinister presence. The percussions, sobers, fall and little by little A World Bathed in Sunlight spreads its soft, its ambient rhythm, with a pensive piano which fights a fall of synth lines speckled of yellow ocher tears. What strikes the mind with this first piece of Matthew Stewart is its structure of composition. Without really goes into drama, the Californian musician proposes a well structured, a well imaged music, by adding elements of emotional tension that make vibrate the strings of our soul. More in a ballad mode and modern New Age, the 9 tracks caress the influences of Mark Isham, Patrick O'Hearn and Darshan Ambient with short structures endowed of a very nice film vision. Unearthing the Arks goes for a rather electronic opening with a sequencing pattern which sparkle such as thousands fires of fireflies asphyxiating in a too narrow tube. The ballad which throws itself on this delicate torrent of sequences awakens memories of Patrick O'Hearn here. A very good title which allies a soft electronic rock to a New Age ballad. Cellar of Stars is not bad at all. Its intro of ambiences’ particles is rather poignant with a thick cloud of dark lines which enfold a ballad approach which will spurt with heaviness into one finale knotted of intensity. Here as everywhere, the piano breaks through our soul with concise and incisive notes. It’s not Berlin School or progressive EM, but it's very listenable if we accept the lightness of the 10 movements of this album which infiltrates our senses insidiously. Who Stays, Who Goes is at the crossroad of the first 2 titles with effects of falls of arpeggios which forge brief more poignant moments. The dramatic envelope is quite high here with very good arrangements which filter an appearance of seraphic choir.

The intensity steps up a notch with The Last Day on Earth, a nice and rather dark ballad, even if the chords are clearly musical for the genre, that would accompany marvellously a movie like Stephen King's saga The Dark Tower. And the piano … Hum, totally lyrical! The same goes for powerful Aftermath, by far the most complex title. Complex in its evolutionary structure but light in its melodious approach, The Journey Away is the title which inhales the most the visions Matthew Stewart's first opus. Divided between ambient passages, the rhythm hangs onto a nice heaviness towards its finale. The melodic approach is split up as much as the rhythm and the arrangements flirt with music of love cinema theme. There is a beautiful movement of sequences here. It decorates a melodious approach which cavorts frivolously as the seconds are going by. The Electronica style with effects of metallic percussions which whip the heavy snores of a bass and other percussions which crumble the fragility of an up-tempo, makes a discreet appearance on this Matthew Stewart's first musical collection with the very intense and noisy Falling Stone. The first part of The Dust Settles offers a kind of ballad in the very American New Age of the years David Lanz and Paul Speer. The finale explodes in a good up-tempo approach with a piano as much devastating than the lively percussions. Canvas ends the album with another intense cinematic arrangements which have stimulate our feelings all along A WORLD BATHED IN SUNLIGHT. Everything is tied up well; the introductory moods, the soft fluty song, the rivulet of crystal-clear sequences, crystalline chords and lively percussions are teaming up in a soft rhythmic structure of which the heaviness introduces a good slow-tempo for daydreamer.

This first CD of Matthew Stewart respects in all aspect the very stylized signature and especially rather diversified of Spotted Peccary. I would say that it's a kind of New Age which is very far from the sleep-inducing roots of the American model which has stigmatized the opinion of the criticisms about the real EM. That remains on the other hand an album that we get accustomed to rather easily, even in its approach which encompasses a musical quest and a more meticulous production on some good titles. And the much film vision of the author adds to this soundscape an intensity that crosses us the soul. Nice, good and rather deeply moving, A WORLD BATHED IN SUNLIGHT offers the ideal music if we want to calm our brain for an hour. My Lise loved it! That gives you an idea…

Sylvain Lupari (December 12th, 2016) ***½**

Available at Spotted Peccary Bandcamp

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