Album Review: Delicate Steve – Till I Burn Up

Over the past ten years Delicate Steve has been establishing a reputation as being a musicians musician. With a unique instrumental style Delicate Steve sounds as equally at home as a guest performing next to the likes of Built to Spill or Tune-Yards, or collaborating with Paul Simon. In addition to this he has been releasing a string of well regarded albums since 2011, with the instrumental Till I Burn Up being the latest.

Instrumental albums are not always the easiest listen, but Till I Burn Up sees Delicate Steve craftily combines his idiosyncratic signature instrumental style, to a bunch of durable tunes which, by being economically brief, means that none of them outstay their welcome. Too often with instrumental albums does the artist over-estimate their audience’s appetite for the epic. Not so Delicate Steve on Till I Burn Up. Here compact tunes are nailed down and dispatched with almost ruthless efficiency, and creating a sturdy alloy by genre-blending rock and roll with wilful art-rock, flecked through with prog, funk and just about anything else Delicate Steve felt like throwing into the pot. The result is an album with minimal wasted energy, and a welcome contrast to instrumental releases by fret-fondlers or synth doodlers whose sense of self-importance all too often outweighs their audiences enthusiasm / patience for extended instrumental workouts.

Is the solo work of Delicate Steve destined for mainstream chart action in the future? Unlikely. Instead he’s a name you might become familiar with when you hear something spectacular on another act’s album, look at the credits to check who played on it, then check out what else he has done, realise he’s put out a few solo albums, then be thrilled to realise that they’re pretty good releases in their own right.

While Till I Burn Up may not see Delicate Steve hitting the charts, chances are he’ll be guesting with a few who do at some point this year, and may even appear on stage with them when they play a gig near you. He seems to be someone who will become ever more in demand as his reputation as a musicians musician continues to grow, while quietly building his cult following as a solo artist via his gigs and pleasingly durable albums like Till I Burn Up.

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