Lee Fletcher is a guy who’s been lending his engineering and producing skills to the recorded works of other musicians for years. His first solo album, Faith in Worthless Things, is proof that he belongs in the spotlight just as much as any of the artists he’s worked with.
That’s no small compliment. Especially when you consider that Fletcher’s been involved – in one way or another – with some of the best albums released in the last 10 years, including Centrozoon’s The Scent of Crash and Burn, Moonbound’s Peak of Eternal Light, Toyah’s This Fragile Moment, and Tuner’s industrial-prog masterpiece Pole. But it wasn’t until the 2011 album Propeller by singer/songwriter Grice that Fletcher really got a chance to flex his considerable in-studio muscle, acting not only as producer, mixer, and co-arranger but also adding bass, electronic percussion, soundscapes, and a whole slew of other ambience-inducing adornments.
Given the impressive result, it was only natural that Fletcher’s next move would be to emerge fully from behind the proverbial curtain to helm his own baby. The result is a collection of songs with lyrics deep enough to be considered poetry and arrangements rich enough to make George Martin pitch an envious fit. The album’s first track “Is it Me (Or is it You)?” is a perfect example of both, opening with a chorus of heartbreakingly beautiful violins and then stepping boldly into that aforementioned poetic space with lyrics that up the ante on the whole introspection angle: “There’s a face in the corner looking inwards with unseeing eyes. It knows that I’m watching, still the moment is uncompromised.”
With lyrics that heavy, it would be easy for just about any vocalist to blow their delivery and have them come across painfully pretentious. Fortunately for Fletcher, he didn’t have to look far to find the perfect person to shoulder their hefty burden – he just so happens to be married to an incredibly gifted singer, Lisa Fletcher, who manages the not inconsiderable task of anchoring the songs with solid vocal performances that toe the line between ethereal and sexy.
But Faith in Worthless Things isn’t just about ethereality and moving string arrangements. It also racks up an incredibly high badass quotient, thanks largely in part to the presence of Markus Reuter, a gifted touch guitarist who’s been tearing up stages lately as one-third of Tony Levin’s Stick Men and one-sixth of Adrian Belew’s Crimson ProjeKCt. In certain musical circles, Reuter is considered something of a god, the heir apparent to the throne still occupied by that other legendary virtuoso, Robert Fripp (who makes a guest appearance of his own, providing soundscapes for an all-too-short instrumental number called “The Answer”). Fripp factor aside, one of Fletcher’s greatest coups was Reuter’s participation on the album – and one of Fletcher’s greatest achievements as producer was in presenting a side of Reuter that few have likely heard before.
Faith in Worthless Things is a richly produced album that acts like the ultimate sonic portfolio, a sampler of the diversity of sounds and lush tapestries that Lee Fletcher is capable of creating. But that’s not all it accomplishes. At times cinematic and at other times deeply intimate, it succeeds in carving out a unique world where touch guitar and Chapman Stick can coexist in perfect harmony – and sometimes in gorgeous dissonance – with trumpet, pedal steel, and violin.
Rounding out the eclectic cast of players on Faith in Worthless Things are Matthias Macht on drums, Tim Motzer on guitars, Steve Bingham on violins, Alan Burton on uillean pipes, Luca Calabrese on trumpet, BJ Cole on pedal steel, Richie Nieto on Chapman Stick, Oliver Klemp on acoustic bass, Clint Hollinson on acoustic guitar, Jacqueline Kershaw on french horn, Chris Wong on fretless bass, and Bernhard Wostheinrich on additional keyboards. Last but certainly not least is Austrian singer SiRenee, who makes a cameo appearance providing lead vocals on “The Number.” The album, which is available in both digital download and physical CD format, is available though Fletcher’s Bandcamp page.