Kevin McCormick / Sticklebacks / Smiling C

A couple of years ago, Californian label, Smiling C, unearthed Light Patterns, a collection of acoustic guitar duets, recorded by Mancunian duo, Kevin McCormick and David Horridge, in the early 1980s. The imprint now presents a solo set from Kevin, committed to tape at around the same time, entitled, Sticklebacks. 

Where the previous outing favoured folk influences, such as David Crosby, John Martyn, and Ralph Towner, and was polished at the city’s famous Strawberry Studios, Sticklebacks is a 4-track affair, captured at home, and is far more experimental. Exploring a musical ether, with 6-string filigree lighter than a feather, these are sketches on a beatless border between post-punk and prog-rock.

Plugged in and playing with an array of delays, effects, and pedals, plus given its location of origin, the music can’t help but draw comparisons with Vini Reilly’s Durutti Column. Kevin layers a lattice of guitar overdubs, rich with reverb, with similar virtuosity. Particularly on pieces such as the album’s title track, Mountain Tops, and Night Journey. The spoken prose, and poetry, in Kevin’s distinctive regional accent, also helps to pull these parallels, while the stridently strummed, and impossibly picked, Sunday Farmway, sailing on stuttered synth swells, recalls Manuel Gottsching’s brilliant brand of kosmische. 

On A Little Cove, fretless bass backs beautiful, bent Peter Green-esque blues-y licks. Choir boy harmonies illuminate A Little Space’s eerie electric arcs. Pizzicato picking, ticking, powers Moon Clock. The series of songs culminating in Alone In A Crowd, for me the album’s highlight, which, despite its moniker, manages to conjure a feeling of cool, confident, calm. 


Kevin McCormick’s Sticklebacks is out now on Smiling C.

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2 thoughts on “Kevin McCormick / Sticklebacks / Smiling C

  1. Hello from Manchester!
    Thank you so much for this very insightful review of my music. You have definitely captured the essence of where I was then and am still now. Thank you also for introducing me to Manuel Gottsching’s music, never heard it before, but lovely stuff! I very rarely heard DC back in the 80s, although Vini lived in the same Manchester area that I did. I knew Bruce Mitchell (wonderful drummer) from his previous bands The Alberto’s and Greasy Bear. Lovely guy.
    I am still playing and recording very much in the same way, I am still as obsessed with it, as I ever was, but just now my grandchildren reset the controls! 😀
    Happy Days to you.


    1. Hi Kevin – I hope you’re having a great long weekend. I’m so happy that you like the review – and so happy to hear that you’re still making music! Thank you! All the best, Rob


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