Sieben sparks again

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Now then. It’s Howden. Matt to be precise, although he often goes under the name of Sieben when making music, usually armed only with his violin and loop pedal with which he manages to produce unusual and unexpected sounds.

His latest work under this moniker – his tenth in 13 years - is entitled Each Divine Spark, recorded in the depths of Sheffield’s mysterious, cave-like Club 60, and bringing his visions to new heights.

It’s serious stuff but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Anyone who has witnessed his engaging stage performances will know. And if you take notice there is often a dark sense of humour running through his work. Prefixing his band’s name on this CD with ‘the mighty,’ calling a song The National Anthem of Somewhere, and the final track emphatically stating ‘this is non-pop,’ followed by the sound of the recording tape rewinding show that he is very aware of and prepared to burst the bubble of any potential pomposity.

Although Matt makes most of the music himself, he does have a few guests, in this case locally-based musicians Michael Eden, who provides guitar on a couple of tracks, Sarah Jay Hawley, who sings on five of the songs and his own teenage daughter April - whose mother was another Sheffield musician, the dearly-departed and much-missed Jane Howden - also provides vocals on one of the tracks. To keep up the city connection, the sleeve artwork is provided by Martin Bedford, probably best known for his series of posters promoting Leadmill shows and now running the Honey Bees Blues Club.

Another guest, providing cello on one track, is Londoner Jo Quail, with whom Matt combined for the excellent Rasp project, which saw the pair combining to write, perform and record an album all in front of live audiences and in a very short period of time.

And it’s best not to rush listening to Each Divine Spark - it’s a subtle collection of tracks but it’s alighted by repeated plays. This flame could make you a fan.

The debut album by the previously-mentioned Rasp has been mastered and is almost ready for release. A documentary film of their two-day endeavours, Write>Record>Perform, produced by Chris Ogden, is also in the pipeline. There are plans to release the two more or less simultaneously.

Meanwhile, you can find a track of theirs on No Red Seas II: No Dead Seas, a compilation album proceeds from which will go towards campaigning for ocean conservation and protecting marine wildlife from human greed. Other artists featured include former All About Eve singer Julianne Regan, and members of Fields Of The Nephilim and Dead Can Dance. Jo Quail also provides a solo track, while Matt teams up with Peter Bjargo of Arcana.

As for Howden, you can download his material from itunes and www.matthowden.com.