Delicate Steve set to perform at Gabe’s

BY IAN STEWART | JULY 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Listening to Wondervisons, Delicate Steve’s first album, you could at first be forgiven for thinking that you were overhearing a practice session. Many of the tracks start inconspicuously, seemingly trying to fit together the drums and shakers and the high-pitched guitar.

This wasn’t a mistake.

“I would say that I was purposefully not always trying to get perfect takes on parts,” said Steve Marion, whose almost-namesake group is on a three-week summer tour playing shows with Cut Copy, Battles, Free Energy, and Ra Ra Riot, among others.

Delicate Steve will be performing 10 p.m. Friday at Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington. Admission is $8.
Five people will take the stage Friday night, but for the most part, people will hear Marion on the album.

The 23-year-old recorded Wondervisions in his home studio, but the path to his first record wasn’t always clear.

“I never really had enough confidence to be able to finish a song until a couple of years ago,” Marion said. Though he took piano lessons growing up, he never had serious training on any of the many instruments that he has worked into Wondervisions.

“I think he definitely takes different samples to make really fun electronic sounds I haven’t heard before,” said Jon Hackbarth, the talent buyer for Gabe’s, who first heard Delicate Steve at the Mill in February. “It’s a really cool instrumental project that you don’t see too often.”

Except for a few ephemeral measures, the album’s 12 songs are devoid of vocals, leaving shimmering guitars, clean-cut synth melodies, shakers, and Afro-drumming free to swell and dip like a tribal anthem whose spacey fuzz hints of extraterrestrial origins.

Occasionally, one guitar or piano track slips away from the beat. They’ll circle each other and then match up in kind of surprise mini-climax. Marion says that kind of free, slightly unfinished sound was the result of a compressed recording schedule, a different experience from the unconstrained experimentation he was used to.

“You just have infinite time when you’re … in your bedroom, you can just hit record, record, record a hundred times to get the perferct sound — but then you’re not really excited about it,” he said. “So it was a conscious choice for things to maybe be a little behind the beat.”

For KRUI’s music director Max Johnson, it’s a certain intricacy and technical proficieny that makes Delicate Steve’s music “fun.”

“It’s interesting to see [him] live, because it’s all from one guy, so when it goes in a weird direction, it’s interesting that it all came from one source,” Johnson said.

But while elements of Delicate Steve’s music seem unstable at times, they are never uncertain, and beneath the dancing and danceable melodies, deep and precise drums drive the songs forward.

While you might not be certain exactly how to bob your head to the album and the band, you’d be hard-pressed not to try.

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