20 Jan 2022

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Steven Hue - Double Single Review: Brainstare / Mantorquim

06 Dec 2021 // A review by Jamie Denton

Ex-pat Kiwi now based in Tasmania, Steven Hue may be familiar to many through his previous work as former vocalist and co-writer for popular experimental band Full Code, his stint studying at the Nelson School of Music, or his commission work which has seen him produce work for art installations, short files, and video games. Turning his hand to solo electronic music, Steven has just released a double single of two new tracks: Brainstare and Manatorquim.

With both tracks featuring Kane Skinner (who may be best known for his work with Tusk: the Fleetwood Mac tribute) on drums, Steven has created an interesting short set of songs. These two singles are cohesive enough to signal a clear, and mature new direction and approach, yet simultaneously diverse enough to be provide an intriguing distinctness to each track and to engage the listener over multiple listens.

First of the two new singles, entitled Brainstare, begins as relatively standard-electronica fare. Slow-swelling synths, a slowly evolving drum beat that moves into the realms of Shapeshifter or similar, leading the listener to expect the big bass drop followed by a hyper-kinetic, drum and bass-esque beat.

But this is when it gets interesting. It doesn’t do this. Instead, it brings in a hauntingly beautiful vocal line, reminiscent of something Amnesiac/Kid A-era Radiohead would have laid down. Then the most musically fascinating thing occurs. The tracks feels like it falls apart, while also somehow remaining cohesive. The drumbeat that has propelled the song, the synth lines, the hooks, all drop into strange, angular, sharp edges. There is no simple toe-tap beat anymore, but instead a full world of sound and time to explore.

Then, confidently, it is pulled back together before playfully being allowed to break apart again. If you can’t tell, the structure of this track has me intrigued and hitting repeat again to try and re-enter this world to further understand it from a musical perspective. After a few listens, I’m still not sure I have fully heard everything that is going on in there – there are so many sounds and nuances to hear – but I am sure this will be something I will listen to a fair few more times over this summer.

The second of these two singles is the intriguingly titled Manatorquim. A Google search on this term brings up nothing, a dictionary.com search gives me nothing. Hmmm… what does this mean?

Kicking off sounding more akin to a horror/thriller ambience, the drums provide a stability to the track (rather than with the anticipation of the hyper-kineticism that they hinted at previously) which is further punctuated by an uber-catchy, near-hypnotic riff. This track has a wonderful feeling of ‘restraint’ throughout.

From the slow-burn intro, the held-back drumming, subdued-almost hushed vocal delivery, and the sparse but effective use of sax/horns, this track is a masterclass in the adage of “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Momentum is built, and maintained, by the slow, but near constant development of tension of increasing instrument layers or intensity, which serves the track very well – leading to a satisfying climatic ending. While I am conscious that I have written less on this particular track, I think if I was forced to pick a favourite, Manatorquim might be it.

If these two tracks signal what Steven Hue has in store with the other 3 tracks he will be releasing, I will be excitedly anticipating their release.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Steven Hue

Steven Hue is most at home in the body of the mind. Hue creates atmospheric soundscapes with a rich blend of electronic sounds and acoustic instrumentation. His evocative vocals stir memories from beyond the edge of conscious reason.

Tapping a rich vein of influences with the tenacity of a musical junkie, Hue fuses ambient soundscapes, experimental rock, and electronica with seamless and satisfying originality.

Hailing from Aotearoa, Hue studied at the Nelson School of Music and is currently based in Tasmania. As vocalist and co-writer for experimental Kiwi band Full Code, Hue experienced the rush of performing live for a highly appreciative fan base. Full Code released a self titled EP in 2009, and full-length album, Telescapes in 2014.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Steven Hue


Year: 2021
Type: EP

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