release: Star Wood Brick Firmament
year of release: 2010
detailed info: discogs.com
It was a mere matter of time before the rising star of Sieben’s oeuvre would be crowned by a new full-length album. Last year’s As They Should Sound saw Matt Howden looking to his back catalogue and restyling a selection of songs in a more current mode. Basically, Star Wood Brick Firmament works in that same mode: Howden unaccompanied and without frills, but with a series of brand new tracks.
Opener “Minack Theatre” and the beautiful “Build You a Song” show Howden at his most subtle: soft, flowing violin soundscapes with minimal looped percussion (also violin), and his still extremely pleasant and natural voice. But there is an excellent balance on this album as well, with tracks like “Long Live the Post Romantic Empire” and “We Wait for Them” emphasising once more how adept Howden is at constructing catchy up-tempo rhythms and song lines.
In this respect, Star Wood Brick Firmament is an excellent album, the Sieben sound more refined than ever. It is a sight better than the merely decent Desire Rites. Nevertheless, the strictly solo approach of the last two releases starts to rub against its borders here and there, and I can’t help but want to hear some guest artist or other in some spots, as on albums like Ogham Inside the Night and High Broad Field and some recent live appearances. The two remixes tacked on to this album, courtesy of Dark-hearted, are nice, but do little to alleviate this, and it wouldn’t have been a disaster either to’ve just ended the album with the incredibly catchy “Can’t Stop This”, maybe the closest Howden has ever got to a club hit.
Notwithstanding small gripes, this is yet another solid album by Sieben, arguably the best since High Broad Field. As such, it’s an essential buy for any fan of Howden’s work, and well worth checking out for everyone else as well, especially if you’ve got a soft spot for experimental folk with catchy songwriting.
Reviewed by O.S.
1. Minack Theatre (3:58)
2. Sweet Enough? (4:03)
3. Build You A Song (4:43)
4. Long Live The Post Romantic Empire (5:13)
5. We Wait For Them (3:43)
6. Donald (4:08)
7. Crowhurst (4:26)
8. Floating (3:52)
9. Jack In The Pulpit (3:25)
10. Can’t Stop This (4:07)
11. There (Dark-hearted) (3:53)
12. We Wait (Dark-hearted) (4:11)