Stephen Nikleva – Square Moon CD Review by Dave O Rama

Steve Nikleva

Square Moon
Stephen Nikleva
Northern Electric Sound

Guitar virtuoso and producer Stephen Nikleva has been the string man of choice for many recording artists on the Vancouver music scene for the past thirty years. The man has worked on recordings by such talented artists as Veda Hille, Sandy Scofield, Sarah McLachlan, Mae Moore and many others.

A member of the Canadian eighties group Red Herring, who have recently reformed, Nikleva is also known for his membership in a variety of bands rooted in the Vancouver rockabilly scene including his past work as a member of the late Ray Condo’s west coast band The Ricochets and the notorious country swing group Jimmy Roy’s 5 Star Hillbillies. Today Nikleva continues his work in the realm of hillbilly jazz working alongside long time collaborator Jimmy Roy as a hired pair of guitar slingers for popular country crooner Petunia in his band The Vipers, along with Square Moon producer and drummer Marc L’Esperance and upright bass player Patrick Metzger.

Nikleva is a seasoned pro who here on Square Moon deftly explores a rich palette of musical genres rooted in a variety of rock n roll and country sub genres. The album effortlessly transitions from surf rock tracks like The Quiet Surf and drag strip dirges like Hot Rod through exotic lounge compositions like The Snake Dance to the atmospheric spaghetti western surrealism of Road Lizard, the playful swinging style of The Loper, and some country pickin’ on the songs Backporch and Blackberry Brambles.

This gifted guitar master also possesses a deep love for Middle Eastern flavoured Romany music, regularly exploring the form with the band Lache Cercel & His Roma Swing Ensemble. A number of tracks on Square Moon explore these eastern influences including Macedonian Polka and the gorgeous bellydance number Eastern Surf.

Nikleva also pays tribute to French café culture working with accordionist Steve Normandin on the compositions l’avenue and Montmartre. Other contributors on the album include drummer Paul Townsend, who plays drums in Nikleva’s solo band, Max Murphy on sax, Steve Lazin on percussion and Mariem Ben Amor providing gorgeous vocalizations on Eastern Surf.

Square Moon is a multifaceted instrumental album showcasing the incredible skills and wide ranging musical interests of one of Vancouver’s most gifted musicians. It’s a pure delight for anyone interested in a broad spectrum approach to the guitar.

Originally published in BC Musician Magazine