With the majority of tracks clocking in at around five minutes, a major feature of Steve Gunn’s fourth album is its enduringly gentle pace. Using a mid-tempo rhythm section and heady production as cornerstones to his intricate guitar work, he opts to take it easy this time around, with a breadth of instruments gradually falling in line to build a subtle sonic palette for each track.
Take ‘New Moon’ - a dancing upright bass and shimmering guitar chords mark the track’s opening, but as the song develops harmonicas and strings gently seep in to create a wistful atmosphere. Similarly, on ‘Luciano’, a soft crescendo of floral strings takes what is originally an unassuming track based around acoustic guitar arpeggios to a much higher plain without ever being obtrusive.
Lap steel guitars and whirring solos are present on ‘Vagabond’ and ‘Chance’, but unlike contemporaries Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs, Steve Gunn’s use of these elements feels more restrained. Rather than offering a key lick or riff to latch onto, these elements are usually mixed in at a more modest volume to add to a delicate canvas of sound. Further complimenting this is the softness of Steve’s own voice, which lends each song a tender, dreamlike quality.
One particularly memorable cut is ‘Stonehurst Cowboy’, a Neil Young-like piece of dusty Americana that tells the story of “the fastest hands in the West”. It’s a tribute to Steve’s late father, who died after a two-year struggle with cancer just two weeks after the release of 2016 album ‘Eyes On The Lines’ - and it lends a strong emotional resonance to the music.
It’s not a record that jumps out on the first listen, but ‘The Unseen In Between’ works as an effective relaxant.