Steve Gunn – The Unseen In Between

The former guitarist in Kurt Vile's backing band, Steve Gunn steps proudly into the spotlight on his latest solo record

Album Review by Lewis Wade | 18 Jan 2019
  • Steve Gunn – The Unseen In Between
Album title: The Unseen In Between
Artist: Steve Gunn
Label: Matador
Release date: 18 Jan

Steve Gunn is probably best known as a former member of Kurt Vile's backing band, The Violators. But, with a string of solo and collaborative releases over the past decade, he's starting to step out of the shadows. However, being a secondary figure can have its advantages: Gunn's been able to maintain a level of anonymity, giving him the perspective of both performer and observer. 'I see a glimmer / Across the wall, through the mirror / Out past the streets beyond the weather / To that place no-one seems to know,' he confides dreamily on opening track New Moon, echoing the album's title and setting out its MO from the off.

Disparate subject matter is tackled with the same unjudgemental gaze across the breadth of The Unseen In Between. Gunn manages to find poignancy in the relationship between a bodega owner and his cat (Luciano), while a light touch is afforded where deep allegory might be expected, as in the Stonehurst Cowboy, a tribute to his late father, which eschews cloying sentimentality in favour of a fun and celebratory Western tale.

With his overtly relaxed manner, Gunn runs the same risk as musicians such as William Tyler (whom he recalls in the noodling intro to New Familiar), in that mood is such a key factor that if you aren't entranced early on the music could appear monotonous. Tyler is lucky in that his instrumental soundscapes have a long time to draw you in, while Gunn's songs are generally around the five-minute mark and cover a variety of lyrical interests.

However, this album features Gunn's most assured songwriting to date, right alongside some of his smoothest arrangements, such as the earworming Vagabond (featuring Meg Baird) and the triumphant closer Paranoid. This is the work of an artist who's been honing his craft for some time now, and is perfectly primed for his moment in the spotlight.

Listen to: New Moon, Vagabond, Paranoid.