Skip to main content
A Magazine for

The Man Who Said This Died Of Alchemy

It's easy to be a snob about other city's music scenes, living where we do. Even so, it came as a pleasant surprise for me to discover what a wonderful acoustic scene Sunderland has. Matt Stalker, with his merry band of Fables, is at the centre of this, and his debut album The Man Who Said This Died Of Alchemy unites the talents of many of the North East's finest musicians. Along with his principal collaborators Jenny Nendick (on cello) and Baz Crosby (one of the most sensitive drummers I've heard), he's made an album of lush, carefully arranged, moving and intelligent songs.

Us Sheffielders can make a small claim on the talents of this fine songwriter, as it was living here at the turn of the last decade that he bought his first Jeff Buckley album at the proudly independent Record Collector in Broomhill - clearly an influential moment in his musical development. The adjective 'Buckley-esque' is one lazily bandied around by many a reviewer, but it is appropriately used here. Matt's voice has both power and subtlety. It's clearly the most important instrument on this album, and the sound around which the music is constructed.

Matt is a curator of the Old Friends / Bookends events at the Independent in Sunderland, the venue around which the local scene thrives. Many of the night's regulars have played a part in this album, adding their voices and a range of other instruments - double bass, flute, even bouzouki - and the textures created really help to increase the range and scope of the album. Too often, albums by singer-songwriters, though beautiful, may wind up feeling monochromatic. This certainly isn't the case here. The lusher sounding tracks are balanced with several completely acoustic vignettes worthy of a comparison with Louis Romegoux. The sense of range and variety extends to the lyrical themes too, with songs traversing agoraphobia, idle fantasy, punctuation (though I'm still searching for some hidden metaphor in that one...), and the most heartbreakingly beautiful song I've ever heard about child abuse.

This album is an assured debut full of confident and emotional songs, all the more impressive for being self produced. A UK tour is being planned for the autumn with a promised stop-off in Sheffield. Visit mattstalkerandfables.bandcamp.com for more info.