Reed Stewart’s new solo release Mallet (LP)
Reed Stewart’s new solo release Mallet is an eleven song, one-man release with Stewart handling more than the songwriting chores, but the musical duties as well. He is responsible for the computer programming fueling many of the performances as well as the instrumental work, namely the bass and drums, but others as well. Stewart has played throughout the world as both a sideman for other musical artists and a solo performer, though he lives in the Nashville area for now. There is a strong personal element running through Stewart’s songwriting, but it is never so autobiographical that it strikes listeners as obscure; there’s a lot here any listener will be able to relate to despite the obvious individual slant of Stewart’s musical and lyrical vision. It is a fully developed release in every respect; Stewart’s Mallet has a developed sound that suggests he began this project with clear direction rather than fumbling for a larger design during the recording process.
“Invading My Space” is an opener throwing down a gauntlet for listeners. It takes a few seconds for Stewart to serve notice to listeners that his ambitions for the release share little with those of everyday pop albums. You can discover melody on this release, usually present in the vocals, but that facet of the performance isn’t in a featured role. The bass line for “Invading My Space” is the song’s musical highlight, but there’s much going on here providing evidence for Stewart’s prodigious musical creativity. I feel his electronic influences stronger on “Stick Shift”, but it shares common ground with the first song. The arrangement careens through a dizzying variety of time shifts and it is to his credit as an artist and composer that the track never loses its way despite these turns. Reproducing this onstage seems like it might be difficult, but it is a gripping listening experience nonetheless.
The rhythm section for the track “Impulse ADHD” is its musical high point and strikes a memorable contrast with the vocal melody. Stewart will surprise you time after time with his talent for juxtaposing beguiling dream-like vocal melodies with arrangements sounding like they are teetering on the edge of chaos. “Hold That Door!” takes his wont for experimentation to new heights, but there’s still a clear design to his efforts despite the obvious distance from anything resembling typical popular song formulas. It incorporates a smattering of sampling into the track for some added color.
“MALLET” BANDCAMP: https://reedstewart.bandcamp.com/
“Food for the Moon” concludes the album with another example of the superb drum sound Stewart pushes to the fore throughout Mallet. His work behind the kit is busy, on point despite a plethora of rhythmic twists, and the live sound he achieves anchors the performance. Many of the album’s eleven songs feature contributions from piano and the finale is no exception; it has the effect of sweeting his otherwise rigorous compositions. Mallet isn’t an album for casual music fans; Reed Stewart is never content with pursuing cookie cutter ends and, instead, pushes the songwriting envelope from the first with great success. It isn’t always an easy listen, but it never fails to reward those willing to open their minds and ears alike.