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Stephen J. / Midwest in Mono / Maritime Fist Glee Club Records (ahoy009)

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reviewed in The Daily O'Collegian September 24, 2007:

If you are interested more in a spooky, Nick Cave/Frank Black and the Catholics sound, then you should check out Stephen J, www.stephenjmusic.com. This collective band, with not a single member named Stephen J, combines beautiful drumbeats with some great guitar rhythms and low-volume, deeply entrancing vocals. Samples seem to play loosely in the background, though not enough to distract you from the original intent and beauty of the music. Matt Carson, vocals and acoustic guitar, is the founder of the group, though he has had many special guests and collaborators from the area involved. Listen to the song titled “Big Blue House” to get a real taste of what these cats have to offer.

reviewed at Independent Clauses (February 2007):
written by Mark Pranger

Close your eyes (figuratively of course). Let's pretend for a moment that you are living in Chicago and working on a PhD. In your spare time you play guitar for three bands called Bosco and Jorge, Magic Lanterns and The Slow Planet, as well as working on a side project called Lake Girls. Whoa, that has to consume a good portion of your life. So what do you do in your free time? That's right; you create a solo project called Stephen J. and release an album. You may now open your eyes and breathe a sigh of relief that you are not Matt Carson.

All of the time that Carson has spent playing for and contributing to other bands gives him valuable insight into his own work. This originality and ingenuity comes as a slap in the face on his debut album, Midwest in Mono. The album opens with "Sunday, 5 A.M.," a short and comforting instrumental that fades seamlessly into "Big Blue House," one of the less prominent tracks on the album. "Big Blue House" does, however, set down Carson's vocal precedents for a relaxing and mellow performance. It is smooth like warm margarine, without losing any of the creaminess or texture of real butter (don't ask).

"Master of None" and "Wings On," two of the best tracks on the album, have perfectly fitting guitar melodies without any of the typical showiness. Carson's song craftsmanship is impressive and completely fluid without ever faltering, best shown in one of the catchiest tracks, "Windmill Lounge." But I guess everything can't last forever. Suddenly Carson unveils "Letter (Never Sent)," a Bright Eyes-ish monologue mentioning an ex-casino pit boss, Vietnam veteran pot head juxtaposed with wine glasses and a mangled oboe solo. This is all done in good taste and, as a finished product, is absolutely beautiful to hear. But wait...there's more! Carson's alter-ego of sorts, Stephen J., has his own theme song. "Stephen J." does not deviate from Carson's desired path of laid-back style in any way. This gem closes with "Suitable for Framing," a sleepy lo-fi track that makes you wish to spend the rest of the day napping.

This is definitely worth your time. Matt Carson has crafted a warm, good-humored monument to relaxation that gives far more than it takes and leaves you pounding your utensils on the table, demanding to be fed more.

reviewed in Dream #7 (October 2006):
written by George Parsons

Ghostly Americana evaporating in a dusty trail of moonlight. Desperation glimmers around the edges, but there’s often warmth and reassurance at the core. This is not a person; but matt carson sings in a pleasant resonant voice that gives this a distinctive personality, it’s a quartet, and none of them are named stephen. Gently softspoken folk rock that goes in and out of focus. Some pieces are fairly straightforward and songlike, while others veer off the garden path into the woods and briars.

Dreamt Of By Armadillos / Dreamt Of By Armadillos / Maritime Fist Glee Club Records (ahoy006)

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reviewed in Dream #7 (October 2006):
written by George Parsons

Guitars, synthesizer, bass, drums, samples, phone, and more utilized to improvise these captivating glimpses of a seamless sonic fabric and manifesting manifold mysteries along the way. They play with a unified muscularity many contemporary improv outfits eschew. There are a couple tracks here that feel very much like space rock, but it’s all dreamily captivating.

posted & reviewed online at Aural Innovations (Mar 2004):
written by Brain Faulkner

I swear that in the four years that I lived in Oklahoma that, with a few notable exceptions, I saw no evidence of any cool local scene - the place was pretty much a cultural wasteland. Perhaps they were just in hiding, waiting for me to leave town? Anyway, this is the first "semi-official" release from this Norman, OK quintet, brought to us courtesy of the fine folk at Maritime Fist Glee Club. DOBA mixes elements of ambient, extendo jam-rock, prog, jazz and even a bit of electronica into a heady brew that while reminding me a bit of contemporaries such as SubSpace and perhaps Escapade really don't sound quite like anything else that I have heard lately. The drumming is diverse, ranging from the straight-ahead time keeping rock of the opening track to a more free and textural approach, as the guitars, keys and sampled + real vocals duel over the top. It's all pretty cleanly with no really harsh edges or massive fuzz attacks or anything like that. Although there is a definite intensity the thing that separates these guys from the others that I mentioned earlier is that when they get in a groove it has a laid back, loping (dare I call it a) vibe that brings to mind really soaked dub, like the OnU Sound stuff or something. I dunno, maybe I'm just f**ked in the head or something. I'm just telling ya what I hear. It really is more of a "feeling" than a sound, maybe I just have to go back and pull out some African Head Charge records and I'll change my mind. At any rate, good stuff, dig.

posted & reviewed online at oklahomarock.com (Jan 2004):
written by Chris Rodriguez

It's funky, it's sparsely electronic, it's spacey; surely it's Dreamt Of By Armadillos. In the tradition that Maritime Fist Glee Club can't release anything in a simple predictable straight-ahead format comes the first official release by Dreamt of by Armadillos. What peculiarities does this disc contain you may be asking? Well aside from the fact that they credit someone performing with a phone as if it were a commonplace instrument, a quick scan of the credits reveal that the album was recorded 'live in Neilson Hall room a102'. But don't be tricked into thinking this is a glorified bootleg, the record is well engineered and the band's improvisations seem, for the most part, focused and consistent.

A well-greased rhythm section lays the funky backdrop as trippy guitars go head to head with samples and keyboards. At times the music may seem directionless but I assure you that it is just the band messing with you. The second they care to click, the music suddenly comes together and makes perfect sense. Of course with a recording like this you are going to have less successful tracks than others ("srand" is an example of this). But the band always makes sure that you have something you can listen to and focus on (in the case of "srand" it's Joel Young's funky drumming which carry the track nicely). The album seems to be a metronome clicking back and forth between a funkier sound and flat out spacey-ness. Sometimes it tilts too far to one side, but sometimes it's just right. (3 out of 4 stars)

appeared in The Broken Face (issue #17, September 2003):
written by Mats Gustafsson

Our favorite Norman, Oklahoma label Maritime Fist Glee Club continues to explore the outer sound of the Great plains with the self-titled release by Dreamt Of By Armadillos, a sometimes five-piece also hailing from Norman. The 60 minute-long disc offers an intriguing blend of jazz, rock, electronics and various experimental leanings. It's woven into some nice smoky structures of sound that range from sweetly gentle floatation to quietly hypnotic grooves. Soft Machine comes to mind from time to time, but this is decidedly more electronic and spaced out (which I guess means it could be compared to SM's brilliant archival release, Spaced Out) but still stays on the quieter side of things most of the time. there's really no use in pointing out specific tracks, as this sorrowful space exploration very much is an album to enjoy in its entirety. listen to the sounds sink into gravity, try to remember the seamless supernatural dreams it generates, get a glimpse of that wide horizon that comes along with such sonic vision. Let it dissolve time into a languid stupor or simply sit back and relax. I'm not quite sure where to place this album stylistically, but no matter if it's jazz, contemporary electronic music, minimal Krautrock or psychedelic/prog rock, it's a pivotal release that you should get your hands on as soon as you get the chance.

contact: stephenj@stephenjmusic.com                                                                                                                          see the myspace page