Album Review: Delicate Steve – Till I Burn Up

Till I Burn Up marks the fifth album in under 9 years for songwriter, guitarist, and producer Steve Marion. Under the guise of Delicate Steve, Marion has released a stream of critically acclaimed, largely lyricless albums since his 2011 debut Wondervisions.

“In a time where nothing makes sense, or when everyone is trying to make sense of everything, even the right idea might not make perfect sense to everybody at that moment.” 

Steve Marion

Achieving cult status, Steve has recorded with his heroes (Paul Simon, Kanye West) and contributed significantly to his contemporaries’ modern masterworks (Amen Dunes, Freedom), all the while recording and releasing his own critically hailed work and sharing the stage with Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, Growlers and others. 

This latest offering takes its name from the Dr. John track Walk on Guilded Splinters although a misheard one. Where Marion took the good Doctor’s “Tit Alberta” as “Till I Burn Up.” Although the seminal Gris-Gris did more than provide a misinterpreted title. Instead forging the art and assurance of this latest long player. 

“The idea of this young freak making Gris Gris in LA, and nobody knowing what to do with it in 1968… He gave me confidence to be a little freakier and more abstract instead of quirky and nicely-packaged like my last album was.” Steve goes on to cite early records by Iggy Pop and Dylan and The Band’s electric tour that were panned at the time and lauded in hindsight. “There is a confidence that comes with abandoning the idea of wanting to create something that everyone might like to check out.”

As someone who likes their instrumentals either soulful and sweeping (Jimmy McGriff) or sparsely intricate (Aphex Twin/Eno), Till I Burn Up caught me a little blindsided. The industrial off center into to opener Way Too Long is soon covered with a molten riff that drips over the entire track. It feels honest and isn’t overproduced. Where birdsong leads you to an abrupt end. Leading into Freedom, it feels more like a companion piece than a continuation. With trilling synths taking the place of tweeting birds. 

Selfie Of A Man has a great sound that could grace any Walter Hill film while the title track combines an incredibly catchy warm riff with deep fuzz and synth bass. There are more straight up synth tracks in the form of Purple Boy and Ghost, before Rat In The House returns to the cinematic, biting leads. Rubberneck brings a more danceable sound, as well as visions of backcombing and sockless men in espadrilles.

We Ride On Black Wings is sparser than the rest of the album with big uplifting chords and deep, deep bass. Leading perfectly to the complex panning sound of Vacant Disco before the album comes down with Madness and the soulful motifs of Dream.

For Till I Burn Up, Marion put up at a studio in Woodstock and found himself playing Freddie Mercury’s Oberheim synthesizer and his guitar plugged into Robbie Robertson’s Fender amp. Indeed, it sounds like he ripped the dusty tarp off a host of instruments not used since we watched Timmy Capello blow his sax through The Lost Boys. However, the retro tone doesn’t detract from an album that still sounds bang on the moment. One that’s not overcooked and self-indulgent. Instrumental albums often fly under the commercial and social radar. The squawks of Till I Burn Up, you should definitely pick up.  

Till I Burn Up is out now on ANTI- Records and can be ordered HERE.

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