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A World Bathed In Sunlight

Matthew Stewart

A World Bathed In Sunlight

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FINALIST - "Best Chill/Groove Album" - ZMR Music Awards

About A World Bathed In Sunlight

Tracks:

1   A World Bathed In Sunlight

2   Unearthing The Arks

3   Cave Of Stars

4   Who Stays, Who Goes

5   Last Day On Earth

6   Falling Stone

7   Aftermath

8   The Journey Away

9   The Dust Settles

10   Canvas

Spotted Peccary Music presents A WORLD BATHED IN SUNLIGHT, the full-length instrumental debut from Matthew Stewart. Melodic moments and grand themes guide the way through ten cinematic and emotional tracks, where layers of synths and electronics unite with piano, ambient electric guitar, fretless bass and percussion to create a moving and organic album that is warm, musical and full of wonder.

Stewart’s abilities as a multi-instrumentalist shine through brilliantly, and his songwriting skills are evident throughout the album as strong melodies and compelling chord progressions are prevalent on each and every track.

With titles like Unearthing The Arks, Who Stays, Who Goes, Last Day On Earth, The Journey Away, and The Dust Settles, it’s clear that Stewart has put together more than just a random collection of tracks for this project, and even through there are no vocals or lyrics, the music successfully expresses a deeper story conveyed in the track titles.

“The album is a musical chronicle of a fictional story I’ve had in mind,” explains Stewart. “The literal story arc follows the destruction of earth, the escape of a few seeds of humanity, and the discovery of a new world.”

A grand story indeed, but rather than being overly dark in the telling, Stewart sees it as more of a creation myth. “Metaphorically speaking, it’s about destruction and rebirth; honoring what was, discovering a new path to survival, choosing what must be sacrificed, and journeying to a new, unfamiliar world which still has its seeds in the old one.”

Musically, it’s the piano melodies that often hold the thematic center throughout the storyline of the album, but there are often many textural layers of electronic and organic instruments, percussion and various interweaving sounds that take each song on its own self-contained story arc.

From the opening strains of the title track, through the dramatic pulse and tension of Falling Stone, to the forward looking resolution of Canvas, A WORLD BATHED IN SUNLIGHT is a visionary soundtrack that champions hope over fear, inspiring the promise of bright futures and endless possibilities.

Reviews

Given that A World Bathed In Sunlight is Matthew Stewart's full-length instrumental debut, his name likely will be unfamiliar to many, even though he's been contributing to Spotted Peccary releases and live performances by other artists, among them Jon Jenkins and Deborah Martin, for a number of years. That detail helps explain, however, why the ambient-electronic release, co-produced by Stewart and Martin, is as accomplished as it is; it certainly doesn't sound like the work of a fledgling artist struggling to get things right on his first outing.

That the hour-long recording is a concept album is indicated by its track titles and Stewart's own description of it as a “musical chronicle of a fictional story [whose] story arc follows the destruction of earth, the escape of a few seeds of humanity, and the discovery of a new world.” It's a timely concept, given the woeful environmental state of our own planet and emerging discussions about the possibility of living elsewhere in the universe. Certainly there's a dark side to the album theme, but there's optimism, too, specifically in the notion of rebirth and new beginnings. Yet while it's possible to draw equivalences between a given track's music and the story-related event alluded to by the track title, no such connections need be drawn for the album to be enjoyed, especially when it's almost wholly instrumental (the singular vocal element is contributed by Martin to “Who Stays, Who Goes,” though, emerging as a wordless moan, it largely blends seamlessly into the instrumental fabric).

A few tracks bring me back to a couple of Mark Isham's early albums, specifically Castalia (Virgin, 1998) and Tibet (Windham Hill, 1999), and that they do so flatters Stewart and his own creation; in fact, it wouldn't be stretching it too far to state that the tracks in question could pass for pieces from those albums with the trumpet stripped out and piano playing emphasized in its place (“Unearthing the Arks” even includes a bass part that strongly calls to mind the beautiful contributions bassist Doug Lunn made to Tibet and other Isham releases). Similar to them, Stewart's in places invites a New Age classification, though again that's not meant as a criticism but merely an acknowledgment of the music's often soothing and serene character.

Stewart's skills as a multi-instrumentalist are on display throughout, though he's never self-indulgent or flamboyant, and his gifts as a composer are equally evident. There's no better argument for Stewart's gifts than the resplendent title track, which opens the set with elegant piano melodies bathed in ambient washes and subtle dashes of percussion; melancholy in tone, it's also undeniably lovely as well as a compelling scene-setter. Moods of varying kinds emerge in the settings that follow, all of them fashioned with a fastidious attention to detail and an unerring grasp of proportion and design, and melody (many of them uplifting and pretty), atmosphere, and rhythm are given equal attention. Whether the track in question is the stirring “Last Day on Earth,” spirited “The Journey Away,” or elegiac “The Dust Settles,” synthesizers, electronics, guitar, bass, percussion, and, of course, piano work hand in hand to produce evocations of immense sophistication and grandeur on this exemplary addition to the Spotted Peccary catalogue.

- Ron Schepper, Textura

Belying the beautiful sounding title, as well as all the beautiful music herein, the theme of Stewart’s instrumental debut album – if one strings the song titles together in the order they are presented, is actually the soundtrack of a selected group of people collectively leaving planet Earth before a “Falling Stone” (presumably an asteroid) destroys the planet, and “The Journey Away” as ”The Dust Settles.” I listened to this disc about ten times before ever looking at the track titles, and was mighty surprised when finally doing so. The ten pieces presented are all beautifully layered symphonic epics built on piano, synths, ambient guitar, and fretless bass, with some light programmed percussion underlying, everything processed nicely into a soft blanket of warm and seemingly joyful ambient melodic brilliance. One would never think of a grand story of destruction when listening to these ten pieces, but apparently that was what was in the composer's mind as this story was created. Stewart has been a sideman on numerous releases by various Spotted Peccary artists (Jon Jenkins, David Helpling, and Deborah Martin) for a good many years, and this is his first release of his own material, where he plays all of the instruments heard. Deborah Martin adds some wordless vocals on the fourth track “Who Stays, Who Goes,” but other than that every sound on the disc is Stewart. Overall, a very promising debut in the Spotted Peccary tradition.

- Peter Thelen, Exposé

Multi-instrumentalist of San Diego, Matthew Stewart is the new discovery of the American label Spotted Peccary. Produced with the help of Deborah Martin, “A World Bathed in Sunlight” is a first album which shows a skillful talent of music writer and arranger where guitars, for the most part acoustics, pianos, keyboards, bass and percussions unify their sounds and tones in order to create powerful synth moods as much ethereal for such rhythmic structures as cinematographic.
The title-track opens on a breakthrough of sun which illuminates a piano nevertheless very meditative, otherwise nostalgic. The melody is almost sad and small pearls of sequences spread a rivulet of carillons while a line of low layer its sinister presence. The percussions, sobers, fall and little by little "A World Bathed in Sunlight" spreads its soft, its ambient rhythm, with a pensive piano which fights a fall of synth lines speckled of yellow ocher tears. What strikes the mind with this first piece of Matthew Stewart is its structure of composition. Without really goes into drama, the Californian musician proposes a well structured, a well imaged, music, by adding elements of emotional tension which make vibrate the strings of our soul. More in a ballad mode and modern New Age, the 9 tracks of “A World Bathed in Sunlight” caress the influences of Mark Isham, Patrick O'Hearn and Darshan Ambient with short structures endowed of a very nice film vision. "Unearthing the Arks" goes for a rather electronic opening with a sequencing pattern which sparkle such as thousands fires of fireflies asphyxiating in a too narrow tube. The ballad which throws itself on this delicate torrent of sequences awakens memories of Patrick O'Hearn here. A very good title which allies a soft electronic rock to a New Age ballad. "Cellar of Stars" is not bad at all. Its intro of ambiences’ particles is rather poignant with a thick cloud of dark lines which enfold a ballad approach which will spurt with heaviness into one finale knotted of intensity. Here as everywhere, the piano breaks through our soul with concise and incisive notes. It’s not Berlin School or progressive EM, but it's very listenable if we accept the lightness of the 10 movements of this album which infiltrates our senses insidiously. "Who Stays, Who goes" is at the crossroad of the first 2 titles with effects of falls of arpeggios which forge brief more poignant moments. The dramatic envelope is quite high here with very good arrangements which filter an appearance of seraphic choir.
The intensity steps up a notch with "The Last Day on Earth", a nice and rather dark ballad, even if the chords are clearly musical for the genre which would accompany marvellously a movie like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower saga. And the piano … Hum, totally lyrical! The same goes for powerful "Aftermath", by far the most complex title of “A World Bathed in Sunlight”. Complex in its evolutionary structure but light in its melodious approach, "The Journey Away" is the title which inhales the most the visions of the title of this Matthew Stewart's first opus. Divided between more ambient passages, the rhythm hangs onto a nice heaviness towards its finale. The melodic approach is split up as much as the rhythm and the arrangements flirt with music of love cinema theme. There is a beautiful movement of sequences here. It decorates a melodious approach which cavorts frivolously as the seconds are going by. The Electronica kind, with effects of metallic percussions which whip the heavy snores of a bass and other percussions which crumble the fragility of an up-tempo, makes a discreet appearance on this Matthew Stewart's first musical collection with the very intense and noisy "Falling Stone". The first part of "The Dust Settles" offers a kind of ballad in the very American New Age of the years David Lanz and Paul Speer on Narada Music. The finale explodes in a good up-tempo approach with a piano as much devastating than the lively percussions. "Canvas" ends “A World Bathed in Sunlight” with an approach as intense as the vast majority of the arrangements which stimulate the very cinematic environment of Matthew Stewart’s first album. Everything is tied up well; the introductory atmospheres, the soft fluty song, the rivulet of crystal clear sequences, crystalline chords, and lively percussions are teaming up in a soft rhythmic structure and of which the heaviness introduces a good slow-tempo for daydreamer.
This first opus of Matthew Stewart respects in every aspect the very stylized signature and especially rather diversified of Spotted Peccary. I would say that it’s a kind of New Age which is very far from the sleep-inducing roots of the American model which has stigmatized the opinion of the criticisms about the real EM. That remains on the other hand an album that we get accustomed rather easily, even in its approach which encircles a musical search and a more meticulous production on some good titles. And the much film vision of the author adds to this soundscape an intensity which crosses us the soul unless living already 6 feet under. Beautiful, good and rather deeply moving, “A World Bathed in Sunlight” offers an ideal music if we want to hear something else. My Lise loved it! That gives you an idea?

- Sylvain Lupari, Synth & Sequences