Described by Gilles Peterson as “a great artist” Matt Sage started out in a band with musicians who moved on to find success working with Faithless and Dido, after which he turned his efforts to solo projects while holed up on a canal boat in Oxfordshire. Since then he has played at WOMAD, started up a hugely successful acoustic night in Oxford called Catweazle, and created a platform called Big Village: allowing for a diverse set of world musicians from India, Senegal, Egypt and Cuba to perform in intimate venues throughout Oxfordshire.
With prior releases including his debut LP, with band the Orchestra of Love, entitled Strange News from Another Star, he is now working with newly formed collective The Medicine; who are looking to record and release sometime this year. With all these projects behind him then, and his desire to push eclectic independent music, by the time of this year’s August release of his second solo album Let the Music Out, he has marked himself as a prolific musical figure in his county – though to many of our ears, mine included, this could be the first time we have heard his work, or indeed his name.
Let the Music out is a sunshiney, pop symphony with echos of Gold-era Ryan Adams, a bit of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, and ounces and ounces of his own band vibe thanks to the vast array of instrumentation. The title track is full of sublime electric guitar and violin, with joyful interuption from saxophone, “All the Colours” showcases a tight instrumental interlude layered with the hushed repeated lyrics “all the colours that you see”, whereas “Lilia”, an excellent track and one of the best on the album is so jazzy and sensual that Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man springs to mind as a musical reference point. Sage’s ability to seamlessly move from musical genre to genre over the course of the record is unique; stitched together in such a way that his variety can scan all these types comfortably without becoming disconnected or disengaging. The overproduction however could be a downfall to the record, letting it fall into just another pretty, lilting summertime BBQ LP, but on the otherhand, it benefits from this too in the way that its sound is full and crisp, making the record and instrumentation crystal clear and all encompassing.
A likeable artist who does what he does exceedingly well; I would be surprised if his talents failed to impress on some level, and while his lyrics can be a bit of a cliche in places; “I know I’m a dreamer but it’s my dreams that keep me alive”; his franker words work much better and feel less contrived, along with his musicianship that outshines by far the most. “Beautiful Morning” which musically is very interesting and employs quite unconventional use of time frames etc, lyrically, in places, isn’t his strongest, while “Song for Sam” is a perfect example of his stripped down and unadorned lyrics exposing the true sentiments of the album.
Nonetheless it is a lighthearted and perfectly enjoyable summertime LP from an accomplished musician doing what he does more than well – which is refreshing enough in itself. Every note and nuance is well thought out; precisely composed and orchestrated, and I’ll be interested to hear more of his projects if only to hear more of the endless joy of Sage and the musicians involved, which rolls out in endless waves from start to finish.