ecord company bumph confuses me. Presumably the aim is to provide a little introduction to the band, in order to save any potentially receptive music journalists the strenuous effort of actually having to listen to the provided audio medium. Perhaps the belief is that if a phrase like ‘ecclesiastic-orgiastic frenzy’ is seen by enough people, the law of averagely lazy writers could result in it eventually finding its way into one or two reviews. Oh hey, it just did!
You win this round, Dreamland Recordings.
What never struck me as terribly useful, though, is that inevitable list of related artists reeled off in shopping list fashion. Cited as either an influence to the group in question, or an outfit who may once have sounded a little like them, or someone whom general consensus and random mythology has conspired to form a vague pretence of similarity with. That’s just not helpful. Especially when you churn out My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and The Jesus and Mary Chain. This amazing shoegaze paradigm is highly unlikely to exist in this, or any other world—but now I want to hear them. I’m all hyped up and ready to hear Jesus My Bloody Slowdive. Congratulations Mr. Public Relations Man, my expectations are just about ready to be shattered all over this unfortunate new band in a vitreous shower of disappointment.
If only the opening “Out Of Time” were to act as some kind of bizarrely super-heated umbrella and melt those shards of my fallen crest. Alas, it was an experience rather more akin to removing any protective headgear and actively avoiding shelter. If some kind of twisted cult were to write the shoegaze bible (unlikely, The Cult would just write about spirit guides and rain) the opening chapters would contain precious few references to snakes and rather more guidance on the importance and joy of delicate layers. Layers make this genre work. Without layers, you’re left with a frighteningly indefinable sludge. “Out Of Time” features three layers (vocals, drums, soup), none of which appear to have ever met.
Similarly gelatinous production values have been applied to “Moon Made,” which is especially frustrating as the separating track (“Tesseract Blues”) exhibits signs of a far more listenable approach. Distinct sounds are discernible through the clearing fog and the drum track actually seems to belong in the mix this time, instead of sitting clumsily astride it and shouting drunkenly at its mates. So clear is the difference that you wonder if some accident of production didn’t append a rough demo version to the EP’s beginning.
After the misstep of “Moon Made,” the steady improvement does pleasingly continue. Indeed, concluding loafer-gawk “Perception Is Reality” brings a fairly harmonious end to an otherwise unfulfilling listen. The delay effects may still err on the side of fuzzy rather than sumptuous, but at least you now feel this is a conscious decision rather than maddeningly muddy mixing.
There are songs trying to escape here—trying to break free from the primordial swamp of odd production decisions like mighty dinosaurs struggling against the advancing age of mammalian dominance. But it’s time to just let the dinosaurs go. I mean, they were most probably killed by a gigantic cloud of dust. Dust! I don’t care how rare vacuum cleaners were back then, that’s still a pretty poor effort. Err .. anyway, yes. The portents seem favourable. Progression over the course of this EP alone prove that Stellarscope still have something to offer. The shoes are on, the laces are firmly tied. Perhaps their next release will swap the furtive glances for professional gazing.