Review: Sieben - No Less Than All (2012)


artist: Sieben
release: No Less Than All
format: CD, LP
year of release: 2012
lable: Red­room
dur­a­tion: 47:10

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

As Sieben, Matt Howden has been noth­ing if not con­sist­ent, main­tain­ing his ori­ginal voice as both a fre­quent live per­former and a stu­dio artist and tech­ni­cian. His violin loop­ing and lay­er­ing tech­nique and singing voice make him a unique and instantly recog­nis­able artist, even after over fif­teen years of work.

The last two stu­dio albums (As They Should Sound excluded, as it con­cerns rework­ings of older tracks) have marked a dir­ec­tion deeper into rock ter­rit­ory, and No Less Than All is the latest and most rig­or­ous step in that dir­ec­tion. Mind you, it’s still violin-based, but most of the songs on these albums have a solid under­pin­ning of bass and per­cus­sion, just not played on the tra­di­tional instru­ments. The com­pos­i­tions how­ever, are song-based, and derive their appeal from track-specific hooks and rhythms.

Howden’s soph­ist­ic­a­tion as a song­writer and pro­du­cer often shines through, whether it is in funky plod­ding tracks like “Shake the Tree” or the more uptempo opener “Music Is Light”. The use of dif­fer­ent vocal angles and lay­er­ings is also more appar­ent on this album, all con­trib­ut­ing to a very pol­ished sound. The cover of Joy Divi­sion’s clas­sic “Trans­mis­sion” is a bull­seye as well, a vel­vety pro­duc­tion sound, but with all of the energy of the ori­ginal. A down­side, though, is that it has more of that energy than most of Howden’s own com­pos­i­tions on this album, and the second half of the album falls a bit flat. Each of the songs makes me go “yes, well done”, but only rarely am I truly gripped by the tracks on dis­play here.

At such times I feel it might have been bet­ter if the new straight­for­ward style had been tempered a bit with the more expans­ive com­pos­i­tion fea­tured in some of Howden’s solo works under his own name, or the more con­cep­tual albums from around the 2005 era. Look­ing back, it was albums like Ogham inside the Night and High Broad Field that truly got me into Sieben, and these haven’t been truly equalled by any of the later albums.

That said, No Less Than All is likely to deliver enough qual­ity listen­ing time for many Sieben fans, and it serves as a fine and catchy intro­duc­tion to Matt Howden’s impress­ive and thor­oughly ori­ginal oeuvre for those who are just hav­ing a look for the first time.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Music Is Light (5:30)
2. Preacher Online (3:23)
3. I Saw A Face (3:55)
4. Von­negut (3:54)
5. Trans­mis­sion (3:25)
6. Shake The Tree (4:16)
7. Black Dog Day (4:14)
8. No Ordin­ary Life (4:08)
9. He Can Delve In Hearts (3:45)
10. In A Train (4:07)
11. No Less Than All (4:34)
12. Music Is Light, Part II (Play Me Again) (1:59)