It’s when you step aside from the chaos, the noise and the hype that the real talent starts to shine through.
And against a backdrop of scenesters, hipsters and here-today-gone-tomorrow bands, one act has remained a constant source of cutting-edge music: Sieben.
Also known as Matt Howden, Sieben has been a musical lifeforce in this city for more than 13 years, staggering audiences with his string prowess.
Armed only with his violin and loop pedal, Sieben is renowned for his ability to produce unusual and unexpected sounds.
His latest work under this moniker – his 10th in 13 years – is entitled Each Divine Spark, recorded in the depths of Sheffield’s mysterious, cave-like Club 60, and bringing his visions to new heights.
It’s serious stuff but he doesn’t take himself too seriously, as anyone who has witnessed his engaging stage performances will know.
And if you take notice there is often a dark sense of humour running through his work.
Prefixing his band’s name on this CD with ‘the mighty,’ calling a song The National Anthem of Somewhere, and the final track emphatically stating ‘this is non-pop,’ followed by the sound of the recording tape rewinding shows that he is very aware of and prepared to burst the bubble of any potential pomposity.
Although Matt makes most of the music himself, he does have a few guests, in this case locally-based Michael Eden, who provides guitar on a couple of tracks, Sarah Jay Hawley, who sings on five of the songs and his own teenage daughter April – whose mother was another Sheffield musician, the dearly-departed and much-missed Jane Howden – also provides vocals on one of the tracks.
To keep up the city connection, the sleeve artwork is provided by Martin Bedford, probably best known for his series of posters promoting Leadmill shows and now running the Honey Bees Blues Club.
Another guest, providing cello on one track, is Londoner Jo Quail, with whom Matt combined for the excellent Rasp project, as the pair combined to write, perform and record an album all in front of live audiences and in a very short period of time.
And it’s best not to rush listening to Each Divine Spark – it’s a subtle collection of tracks but it reveals more with repeated plays.
The debut album by the previously-mentioned Rasp has been mastered and is almost ready for release. A documentary film of their two-day endeavours, Write>Record>Perform, produced by Chris Ogden, is also in the pipeline. There are plans to release the two more or less simultaneously.
Meanwhile, you can find a track of theirs on compilation album No Red Seas II: No Dead Seas.
Proceeds from the album will go towards campaigning for ocean conservation and protecting marine wildlife from human greed.
Other artists featured include former All About Eve singer Julianne Regan, and members of Fields Of The Nephilim and Dead Can Dance. Jo Quail also provides a solo track, while Matt teams up with Peter Bjargo of Arcana.
As for Howden, you can download his material from itunes and www.matthowden.com.