"When you want something with all your heart, that's when you're closest to the soul of the world. It's always a positive force." A quote from Pablo Coelho's The Alchemist, Delicate Steve aka Steve Marion of New Jersey, posted a picture of it on his Facebook page.
The date was August 14th, which was my birthday and without detailing too much on my existential crisis, is there a better quote to read on a day like that? A quote that on its glossy surface seems to be so correct but when semantically unpacked makes very little empirical sense. We've all seen encompassing desires that don't equate to rightness or positivity by any means. But this is just pernickety; the idealistic point being made is the feeling of wanting something that's good and maybe bigger than any menial wish, a feeling beyond words.
When regarded in this sense, Positive Force, Delicate Steve's second album, is an attempt to capture this transcendent euphoria through mostly wordless music. To be a fly on the wall, when this album was created…it flows seamlessly through decades of inspiration starting with the acoustic psychedelica of 'Ramona Reborn'.
After being inspired by such a cumbersome quote, The 23 year old posed himself the challenge of creating something to connect musically with the intangible notion of 'positive force'. This task was etched up further by the Steve's limited utterances. But to exhaust an already tired quote, Positive Force brings heed to the claim that "only 20% of communication is through words." It's true that music hasn't evolved to possess body language, but it can relay atmosphere if done correctly; take 'Two Lovers', with its colourful liquidity, sentimental tenor and the occasional dazed muttering of the song's name. In some ways, singing 'real' sentences is glorified but lazy; few artists in western music know how to make the actual music the primary force of communication.
Steve has chosen to relay atmosphere through colour; listening to the album, we all become momentary synesthetes. You can imagine him compartmentalising sounds as painters do colours; Positive Force means that the greys and blacks are omitted being replaces by the light frosty blue of spring in the title track (the song fittingly 'smells' like morning dew). This bright sense is captured throughout, with the inspiration of Crosby, Stills and Nash (though they had their down moments) albeit with a futuristic trajectory, being evident.
Somehow searing arrogant guitars found their way into Delicate Steve's vision. The 1980s glam rock guitar guilt has been hard to shake off, and if entertained is locked in the realm of nostalgic acceptance, like listening to Queen at an office party. But Steve has reconciled it on his busy sonic palate. 'Afria Talks to You' is an ode to the guitar of the future (if that is chronologically possible) as the instrument leads the song into a foray of animate colour.
Positive Force is a journey just like the novel it was inspired by. 'Luna', a perfect closing track led by a temperate piano; is a pensive ending, as though the journey is complete and the shrouding of positive energy had led to some magnificent state of nirvana. How great is it that all this can be deduced with barely 15 words sung?