FOLLOWING A MINOR media maelstrom in the wake of a widely republished faux press release (later found to have been written by Chuck Klosterman) for his 2011 debut LP Wondervisions, guitar genie Delicate Steve—one Steve Marion—pulled off another PR stunt earlier this month that's endeared his soaring guitar instrumentals to a growing audience. A series of play-button audio installations in NYC were placed on park benches, near bridges, piers, and even in a converted NYPD van that served a special sandwich dubbed the Delicate Cheese. There were 10 in all, each playing a respective track from Marion's new LP, Positive Force.
"If these new Delicate Air Jordans are as hot as I think they'll be, we got the PR game on lock," jokes Marion.
Fortunately, the new album is injected with enough mind-altering time signatures and genre-blurring world pop to stand on its own. Virtuosic hits of decidedly indelicate psychedelic pomp and summertime gloss slither throughout Positive Force. One of its more gratifying aspects is its allegiance to soaring melodies, as if the lead guitars are a ghost voice for a missing frontman.
Marion admits the connection. "I connect more with singers than I do with instrumentalists," he explains, "so I try to sound like a voice with my guitar."
A fine example is "Wally Wilder," one of the album's more epically structured cuts. The song screeches to life with all the measured stoicism of an NES Zelda installment, allowing Marion's expressive chops to escort a snappy instrumental full of talkie lead guitar over plush, Caribbean progressions.
And opening track "Ramona Reborn" awakens a lithe slide guitar, a wisp of layered keys, and just a trace of feel-good whoo-oo-oo vocals near the back-end. Just as suddenly and dreamily, that existential sense of fanciful worldliness is unsheathed on the title track, showcasing Japanese-inspired guitar arpeggio, lots of trippy swells, and more slide guitar.
"I wanted to fully realize all of the tracks on this record," Marion says. "Even if they were meant to be transitional pieces or moments, like there were on the first record, I still wanted to turn them into full-sounding songs."