I can't tell you anything at all / And that's the biggest joke of all.
Posts tagged Slowdive
The Strange Case of… Stella Luna
Legends don’t tend to last in the days of instantaneous information flow, ad-hoc gratification and the ready-made potential to be an expert on anything - the entrance requirement being the ability to misspell a smart-arsed quip.
Legends don’t often remain legends. They eventually aquire humanity and immediacy, and accessibility by default robs any myth of its wonder. But this is not a fate that has befallen Stella Luna. I almost wish it had. I wish more people knew.
So, let’s be clear. This is a band that released one EP. Containing four songs. In 2002. On an unknown record label called, rather niftily, Clairecords (Is that an MBV or a Lilys-baiting name?). Who have a website containing limited information about their withdrawn clients. On the website, if one delves, one can find a press release describing said Stargazer EP as “a precursor to their full-length follow up later this year”. The full-length never arrived.
What about this aberration could possibly warrant any further attention? Kids from Florida (FLORIDA???) release a shoegaze demo tape a decade ago - nevermind a decade late. Lives have been lived in that time. Loves lost. Too, too many amazing bands have come and gone. Why should anyone give anything close to a single fuck about this flash in the pan?
… Because this flash radiated from outer space. It was a blessing, descending like a meteor and burning out instantly, offering an otherworldy take on the shoegaze idiom. Blink once and you’d miss everything, it seemed.
Nothing based on cliché should be original. But Stargazer did manage to offer something unique. It went beyond the sum of its derivative parts and straight to the heart of what most ‘shoegaze’ bands don’t understand - create your own atmosphere and you could live forever, if you get it right. There are people who won’t forget - who will not forget.
Stella Luna got it right.
That EP, right there, represents evolution. It simultaneously feels like it has been plucked in suspension directly from 1991, re-animated, and sent out to stagger around wrecking things in uncertain light, flailing. But, realistically, no band could have done this in 1991. No way. Slowdive were busy piecing together the perfect pop record; just with an aesthetic that was no-one elses but their own. MBV were making music from a different cosmos. Bark Psychosis were toddlers, blinking furiously before they got round to the pressing business of inadvertantly redefining genres and classifications by destroying them. Y’know - patchwork.
This EP is my bridge. Slowdive gave up on the spaced out rock and went to do an equally beautiful and idiosyncratic take on country music as Mojave 3 (Yes, yes, I know - but make no mistake, the first Halstead project should have been a car crash too). But it seems to me, and has always seemed so, that Slowdive missed a trick. Their sound was not completed when they fell to bits. They didn’t master their illusions like Kevin Shields did - not to the end point where there was no more to give. There was further scope. Scope to stop drifting and find out what might happen after crashing down. Get aggressive. Articulate what might follow oustanding melancholy. Go out into the unknown.
Halstead didn’t, but, thoroughly off cue, Stella Luna did what others probably dismissed as risibly anachronistic. They launched Slowdive’s sound starwards.
And those tunes, those tunes… With the simplest of melodies, weary drums, devastating layers of sustain and overdriven scuzz. On every listen, my favourite of the four alternates like a game of hazey pass the parcel played on a ledge above city lights below - four little nuggets, perfect, by themselves, of themselves, in themselves. This is intensely, intensely sexual music - but sensual, whispering; not overt. Not a bragging boor hammering away on top. It’s sexual in that the sexuality is tantalising, ethereal. The aggression is like, I suppose, Black Francis’s screaming - controlled at all times. Graceful. A synchronised release.
And which track to prefer… The obstinate lack of choice makes this all the more personal. The outright fucking degenerate chaos of Bridge To Nowhere? The effortlessly heartbreaking Antares, so well formed that I’d even miss the hopelessly cheesy space launch samples if they were to, one day, be disappeared? The almost playful title track? The opening number, Change, so perfect in so many ways that I want my world to stop… give it more attention than I have within me, outwith me. Stop breathing. Let it flow.
I found this blog not so long ago, offering nothing further than further hints, and other promises that, years ago, lapsed. This seems apt. It fits. On one hand, I want in on this, want to cultivate adventures up in the sky that could be possible - could be mine. On the other hand, I’d rather the legend stays as exactly just that (I didn’t even find a photo of the band until fairly recently), and that the 26 minutes of heavenly bliss remains what it is; untainted, undiscovered, but not dead; dormant. Waiting. Just waiting.
So, Susan Hanson, Devon Smith, Rhonda Roberts, Jennifer Sterling and Darin Fitzpatrick - thank you. Wherever you are. Whoever you are.
Savage Garden - Savage Garden
Something that is really quite important to me is shoegaze music. It’s not just the holistic concept, however - as discussed in a post on Verve’s first album a few days ago, there’s quite a lot of what supposedly composes the genre that I don’t care for. At all. Second to melody is aura. I’m looking for aura.
I don’t know where exactly this obsession came from, or the exact chronology of events preceding the moment I first heard When The Sun Hits by Slowdive, and my jaw hit the floor. Let’s get autobiographical.
I was about 10 when I first heard To The Moon And Back. Clearly, being 10, I had never displayed any symptoms of pining for wistful dreamgazing, but I remember being rather taken aback by the atmosphere of the piece. It invoked homesickness in a state of development where one has absolutely no concept of the ‘home’ whatsoever. it just sounded… correct. Fitting.
Now, I’m not writing to convince anyone that Savage Garden are some twisted representation of underappreciated genius, or a latter-day, esoteric addition to the shoegaze cannon (though they were once described as ‘popgaze’, and frankly if A.R. Kane, great as they were, manage to get widely described as ‘dream pop’, then why not?), or a post-ironic band trolling the charts who were trying to get kids to buy the cassette version of Souvlaki. They just made fucking great pop music.
I like writing about Girls Aloud, Sugababes and Kylie Minogue, mainly because I get to indulge, with some tangential velocity, in the Xenomania rant - the essential Saint Etienne connections, the hilarious story about the Franz Ferdinand and New Order recording sessions, blah blah. Look it up. That sort of justification doesn’t apply. I don’t want to pretend to intellectualise a fleeting pleasure that has managed to last, through all sorts of other discoveries. I like This Heat, you know. I like Tangerine Dream. I like Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed. I like The Fire Engines.
This time, I just want to say this - that, despite dated, tacky production, blatant cheap keyboard patches and Darren Hayes hamming everything up like a disaffected pantomime dame with piles, the pop melodies win out. On Tears Of Pearls and A Thousand Words particularly - but still most of all on To The Moon And Back, a song that I played to my prog fiend friend in London last weekend when pissed on wine, who thought it was some sort of ELP-influenced late 80s synthgaze anthem until the lyrics started and he found out who the artist was, whereupon he pretended to hate it. Slickness is a turn-off; but all turn-offs are in the mind.
This works in the same way as the turn-ons - to a great extent, already in the mind bank somewhere, already buried, and they work best, to the greatest level of fulfilment, if one indulges, is not ashamed, and lets them out wholly and completely.
PM, not frustrated. x