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Stella Luna - Stargazer

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Artist: Stella Luna

Album: Stargazer

Label: Clairecords

Review date: Oct. 20, 2002

Starry Nights

When faced with an EP called Stargazer by a band called Stella Luna, presumptions are validated. Indeed, there could be nothing more accurate about either name (after all, calling it "Shoegazer" would be pushing it a little), but to file Stella Luna away amongst the My Bloody Valentine soundalikes of the day is to do a criminal injustice to Stargazer's layers upon layers of enchantingly dreamy pop. If this is a genre piece, it is a fine example of the genre, and if it's been done before, so be it – Stargazer bears a second look, and perhaps more.

Stargazer is not an album about to shatter any long-held stereotypes about space rock. The album cover is a deep crimson with bright blurry lights in the corner, as good as any metaphor for the sound of the songs within: dark, hazy, and only occasionally do points of light pierce through the obscurity of the surrounding din. You can't tell what is being sung or really who is playing what where – instead, you’re immersed in an ethereal mess of fuzzy vocals, muted drums, and walls of guitar distortion. "Change" bleeds seamlessly into the title track in a wash of somber, spaced-out noise, too slow to rock but not slow enough to be sadcore. A hint of industrial abrasiveness outlines everything, the dehumanized drone of Mogwai backgrounds and the desolation of Catherine Wheel, but from somewhere under the sheets of creaks and swerves and echoes, there is a touchingly human element fighting its way to the surface.

Nothing on Stargazer is precise, but Stella Luna immediately set a tone that doesn't demand tight, technical ability and doesn't suffer for lack of it. Everything is just a little bit out of sync — the drums are just a fraction of a second too slow, the vocals just a little too quiet, the changes in distortion effects not quite in time — and in its own light that approach works completely. In fact, the album's pitfalls occur mainly where we are left to concentrate on one sound for too long; either by comparison to the density elsewhere or due to the previously set standard of loose musicianship, the quieter, more focused parts of "Antares" actually sound like low points.

But on the whole, Stargazer delivers exactly what it attempts: 26 minutes of numbing, yet heartfelt pop, losing nothing by being buried in a big noisy mess. In the redolent chaos of this sound that is somehow controlled and surprisingly poignant, hints of beauty come to the fore and keep Stargazer interesting, just like those bright lights on the cover.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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