ARTIST: Stella Diana
RELEASE DATE: 25th May 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Vipchoyo Sound Factory / Siete Señoritas Gritando
Neapolitan dream-gazers 'Stella Diana' have been one of our favourite Italogaze outfits since their sublime debut long player '41.61.93' dropped way back in February 2014. We've championed their every release since then, supported singles via our earliest radio shows and continuously spin music from them 24/7 over on our sister radio station - Primal Radio. You could say we've been hooked from the very early stages of their development. Formed back in 1998 by Dario Torre - vocals/guitar, Giacomo Salzano - bass guitar and later joined by Giulio Grasso on drums they wear a multitude of sonic influences on their sleeves. Steeped in shimmering sounds and referencing seminal shoegaze bands such as Ride and Lush, the dark-wave atmospherics of Bauhaus and Joy Division and even the new-wave structures reminiscent of Echo And The Bunnymen and The Chameleons, 'Stella Diana' are a deeply entrancing listen. Their intricate song structures weave intertwining sonics filled with a kind of melancholic atmosphere that never ever disappoints. Now the band have returned with what is their best long player to date. Simply titled '57', this eleven track opus delivers a more mature sounding 'Stella Diana', firmly establishing them as one of the most important bands to ever have come out of the underground Italogaze scene. '57' has it's official release on May 25th 2018 via both the Italian based independent record label Vipchoyo Sound Factory and the Spanish based Siete Señoritas Gritando respectively. It's available to pre-order right now on various formats via stelladiana.bandcamp.com
57 by Stella Diana
With a swirl of twinkling guitars underpinned by effervescent harmonics and a rush of delayed reverberation the opening permutations of ‘Lurine Rae’ completely captivate the senses. Like a child opening gifts on Christmas morning I tentatively wait for that typical ‘Stella Diana’ sound, that intricate web of frequencies that I’ve come to know over their previous releases; and they do not disappoint here. There’s a heady rush of fuzzy instrumentation as the track blissfully erupts into a kaleidoscope of colour, unfurling it’s sullen sonic tendrils with each sonic progression, introducing busy percussion and that addictive pull of bass before the vocals arrive floating in a hazy air of atmospherics. There’s a specific art-form to writing and painting melody into songs. ‘Stella Diana’ have that majestic art form perfected and it is highlighted in abundance here. Up next, ‘Naos’ spins into existence trapped in a swirling droning haze as slow moving percussion keeps a steady tempo as humming bass frequencies bubble and arc below layers of hazy guitar that collectively envelope another impressive vocal performance courtesy of the masterful Mr.Dario Torre. There are refreshing hints of post-punk, shoegaze and even psych-gaze here that are invigorating and are sure to catch the ear of older fans of the band. My only criticism is that the track is too short, but maybe I’m just being selfish!
‘Iris’ jangles into the ether on repetitive lines of melodic guitar as it’s twinkling swells of synth dance and ebb through sticky clouds of reverb. A slow percussive swagger accompanies floating vocalisations out into the mix as throbbing bass frequencies hover in a kind of suspended sonic animation. I can hear some early post-punk connotations of The Cure echoed within it’s intricate guitar lines, some new wave leanings reminiscent of Echo And The Bunnymen and even some subtle Sisters Of Mercy vibes going on here also. ‘Iris’ builds ever so slowly and it gently leads it’s listeners into a peaceful break before exploding into a multitude of colours as we tumble through clouds of raging instrumentation and on into it’s blissful finale. It’s a definite album highlight for me. The psychedelic incantations of ‘Harrison Ford’ are amazing and there’s a definite psych-pop tinge to this track that will have you harking back to those early melodic tones of The Stone Roses or even the melodic intensity of The La’s. It’s big, it’s brash, catchy as hell and it’s as addictive as they come whilst ‘Ludwig’ has hints of sullen dark-wave undulating just below it’s atmospheric exterior. Repetitive bass lines hum on top of synth and slow moving percussion as swirling lines of guitar ebb & flow through layers of reverb, pushing ripples of frequential refractions out into the sonic ether with each twist as it’s haunting vocalisations precariously balance on each pulse of sound. Again ‘Stella Diana’ use catchy chord changes here, building the track step by step until eventually it erupts into it’s magnificent finale.
‘Elaine’ is deeply melancholic, with it’s sampled beginnings, intricate golden tinged lines of guitar, those intense swells of synth and that brilliant addition of saxophone, this track is absolutely immense and it harkens back to some of Stella Diana’s earlier releases. It morphs into something altogether magical and is another highlight for me on this release. ‘Do Androids ...’ tumbles into audible range on a rolling drum pattern as cascading lines of bass cling to distinctly spacey progressions of synth and those rambling lines of lead guitar. Stella Diana’s fascination with all thing sci-fi are pushed to the fore here and there are some mesmerising passages of hazy instrumentation to lose yourself in whilst the slow moving opening bars of ‘Mrs Darling’ are intensely captivating. Reverberating layers of guitar float into the ether as the subtle pull of bass and that slow moving percussive assault accompany haunting lines of vocal out into the unknown. Reminiscent at times to Ride’s - Dreams Burn Down, 'Mrs Darling' is simply breathtaking.
‘Der Sandmann’, the albums lead track, sounds like it could have appeared on the bands last album - ‘Nitcrosis’. Inherently melodic and intensely atmospheric, it meanders brilliantly on a repetitive bass line sporadically whipped by swells of synth, subtle pulses of percussion and that ever present sting of lead guitar as Dario Torre’s yearning vocalisations swirl through clouds of atmospheric reverberations with relative ease. ‘Der Sandmann’ is absolutely sublime and it leads us effortlessly into the albums penultimate piece. ‘Lost Children’ shimmers on waves of cascading bass frequencies as slow moving percussion bellows just below the mix allowing beautifully intense progressions of guitar to cushion haunting vocalisations as they push through surging waves of golden hued production before disappearing from view completely and we fade out on the ever present repetitive hum of bass whilst the albums's outro entitled 'Caves' is a squally synth led slice of cinematic ambience and a wonderful closing piece on what is another spellbinding album by one of the best bands to ever have come out of the Italian underground music scene.
‘Stella Diana’ have a unique talent of not only writing catchy, melodically sound and instantly enjoyable songs but they also have a knack for pulling some of their various musical influences together, morphing them, twisting them and meshing them into something altogether new sounding. And just when you think you have their sound pinned down they change it up and confuse you all over again. With each of their album releases this band have continued to impress. Where some of the well known bands within this worldwide underground scene have fallen short as of late, 'Stella Diana' continue to fly the flag for the never waning Italogaze movement. In closing, ’57’ is absolutley immense and has instantly highlighted itself as my favourite release of 2018 so far.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting genres of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
RELEASE DATE: 29th April 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Vipchoyo Sound Factory
Back at the end of 2014 I was presenting an online radio show covering shoegaze and its many sub-genres when I came across a fantastic little Italian based band who fused a plethora of musical genres together to create something rather special. This collective of Neapolitan musicians melded together a heady brew of driving post-punk, melodic dream-pop and hazy shoegaze to produce musical soundscapes so mesmerising that they literally took my breath away. Stella Diana optimise everything that is great with the underground Italian shoegazing scene and they have been steadily building up a massive worldwide fan base every since those early radio show days. Now the band have returned with a blistering full length follow up to 2015’s stunning five track EP ‘Alhena’ via Vipchoyo Sound Factory Records. This new album is called ‘Nitocris’ and it is another positive step in the evolution of a band who may be involved in this reinvented shoegazing scene right now, but who also have the ability to stand out on their own ‘musically’ as we spin into the sonic unknown.
Nitocris by stella diana
The album opens up with ‘Sofia’. Shimmering guitar lines usher in the atmospheric synth swells as the track pushes ripples into the sonic waves around it. It shuffles on a sold bed of percussion as it builds into a wall beautifully golden intensity. Vocally sublime, it unleashes a layered wall of reverberating brilliance and announces the return of a band on the cusp of greatness. Track two, ‘M.9’ is musically reminiscent of ‘Slowdive’ with its emotive walls of reverb until that impressive vocal line adds a subtle injection of brilliant post-punk. It explodes into its chorus progressions with aplomb intertwining with that melodic bass line that adds addictiveness into proceedings. Thoroughly enjoyable. Up next the dark and brooding ‘F.u. Orionis’ musically screams early ‘Cure’ at me as it works through its sonic gears, skulking like a sullen love sick teenager before its soaring chorus parts usher in Stella Diana of old. This is modern day post-gazing at its very, very best and possibly my favourite track on this entire release.
Swirling, droning frequencies circumnavigate that tremulous guitar structure as whispering vocals stream into audible range. Like some sort of modern day Sci-Fi soundtrack the shuffling percussion and throbbing baseline of ‘Sulpher’ carries that impressive vocal like a sonic chariot ambling into battle. This is a beautifully atmospheric track that heaps layer upon layer of sonic frequencies on top of each other to create a blissful wall of golden hued sound. Up next, ‘Aphrodia’ is reminiscent of ‘Drive Blind’ era RIDE with its heavy bass frequencies & shuffling drum patterns coupled with those fuzzy guitars and that barely audible vocal progression. Its only when the synth swells arrive that you get intense attack on your senses and you begin to hear everything in brilliant sonic technicolor. Track six begins with a stunning baseline! ‘Psychedelic Furs’ is stuffed to the brim with melody. This for me is the that ‘Next Step’ in a bands evolution that I previously spoke about! ‘Psychedelic Furs’ is a completely new side to Stella Diana. It’s song structuring and every single instrument swirling within it is geared towards melody, with the studio gadgetry shaved back and the fuzzy guitars withheld Stella Diana are free to express themselves in a whole new light. It’s a brilliantly written track and worthy of your ears.
Up next is the first single to be lifted from the album. ‘Dedu’n’ is a bass driven atmospheric monolith that skips through multiple layers of reverberating guitar frequencies with aplomb. It’s pounding drum patterns and subtle synth swells carry the entire track as the vocal hangs in a haze of suspended animation and is laid bare for all to hear. The albums penultimate track is called ‘Aya Ray’. A beautifully melodic and thoroughly addictive bass line is this tracks centre piece as all around it shimmers and meanders through intense layers of fuzzy reverberating guitars. Again, the vocals are impressive and the drum track grounds the entire piece as the track skips through an apocalyptic post-punk world, littered with the bones of past shoegazing stalwarts! The albums closer builds from its very first notes. ‘J. Carpenter’ has obvious cinematic connotations as it heaves and lurches through its reverberating layers of hazy atmosphere. There’s an air of post-rock emanating from it too, as instrumentally it swirls around that brilliant vocal sample and carries on into its stunning finale. A fitting end to a game changing album!
Bravo, Stella Diana!
The ‘Nitocris LP’ Had it's official release on the 29th April 2016 via Vipchoyo Sound Factory Records and is available to buy/download right now from: stelladiana.bandcamp.com
Del Chaney has spent the last four years not only fronting popular experimental Irish based electronic duo Analogue Wave but also dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk, post rock & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion. His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
by Primal Music
RELEASE: Alhena EP
RELEASE DATE: November 27th 2015
It’s hard to believe just how far ‘Stella Diana’ have come since their last full release '41 61 93' back in 2014. I know that they’ve appeared on various shoegaze compilations since then with various covers etc & that they have just penned a new record deal but leaving all of that aside, this band have continued collectively to create a beautiful concoction of mesmerising & melodically astute shoegaze while vocally using their home language, rather impressively I might add, as a method with which to transport their sonic message to their fairly immense worldwide fanbase. That in itself should be applauded in my opinion & thats even before we peel back the outer layers of this latest outing – ‘Alhena’, released via their newly acquired independent record label ‘Vipchoyo Sound Factory’.
Alhena by Stella Diana
Scientifically speaking the meaning dictated for ‘Alhena’ is – “Its an evolving star exhausting the supply of hydrogen at its core and has entered the sub-giant stage”. If you attach the above definition to ‘Stella Diana’ you can quickly understand how this band have exhausted their small time musical surroundings and are now moving out of the underground into a much larger musical orbit. Its amazing to see & even better to hear as some of these tracks were previously available via the bands bandcamp page (albeit without the production & mastering skills of Ferndale Productions Mark Joy & Alexander Kretov of Ummagma Studios) and have now been beautifully mixed & mastered by the afore mentioned individuals to the extent that they now weave & arc through layers of amazing sonic brilliance. ‘Stella Diana’ are Dario Torre – Vocals & Guitar, Giacomo Salzano – Bass, Roberto Amato – Guitar, Raffaele Boccheti – Guitar & Davide Fusco – Drums & they hail from the beautiful city of Naples.
The opening track & lead single ‘Shohet’ explodes into the ether with a fuzzy undercurrent intertwined with melodic guitar patterns & hazy shimmering tone. It has, as we’ve come to expect from ‘Stella Diana’, a sublime vocal track that is jammed full of gorgeous melody. Up next is a trip to 1990’s heaven. ‘Caulfield’ drives & ploughs through another impressive musical structure reminiscent at times to early Belgian stalwarts ‘Deus’ crossed with Manchunian wonders ‘The Stone Roses’. Go listen to it!!! Track 3 – ‘Bill Carson’ brings the song writing skills of ‘Stella Diana’ to the fore with melodic chord progressions full of purposefully addictive peaks & troughs. Another solid tune, masterfully mixed & produced. Up Next – ‘Mira’ is utterly addictive without being overly lush. It explodes in the breaks & drives through the verses with its repetitive bass line & almost droning space rock like guitars. A triumph of a track that is most definitely the stand out for me on this whole release. Closing the proceedings is a cover version of a track originally released by 1990’s psychedelic underachievers ‘Kula Shaker’ entitled ‘Govinda’. Not for me really but you can understand why the band would include it on this release as it fits into the over all ascetic of ‘Alhena’ & obviously has deep meaning that only the band can explain.
Overall this is an impressive debut release by a band whom I have a lot of time for. If you are new to the impressive sounds of ‘Stella Diana’ then this is a great starting point on your sonic adventure. For me though, the band have a lot more to give & I eagerly await some brand new material.
With a rake of new Shoegazing scenes popping up all around the globe it was only a matter of time before we heard what the Italian gazers could produce. From Rome to Milan, Modena to Palermo - powerful & hard hitting Italian 'Nu- Shoegaze' bands are creating some of the best sonic sounds around, not only in Italy, but in my opinion, some of the best in Europe! Thats a pretty bold statement to make, you might say to yourself, upon reading this review, but I've found a stunning collection of tracks by a band that most of you reading this blog would only have heard glimpses of! A band that I've been actively playing & promoting on my show 'The Primal Radio Show' for a long time.
'Stella Diana' hail from Naples, Italy. The band are made up of Dario Torre - Vox & Guitar, Giacomo Salzano - Bass, Davide Fusco - Drums & Roberto Amato - Guitar/Synth. Self declared Shoegaze and New Wave freaks since 1998, the band self released the immense '41 61 93' to the masses on 14th February 2014.
I've listened to '41 61 93' over and over again, and although my favourites keep changing with every listen, I've picked out two immense tracks that'll hopefully showcase the quality of music that Stella Diana create.
Opening up with the massive 'Isabeau' as the first track on this amazing album, Stella Diana set out their Shoegaze stall from the very first Drum beat. With vocals recorded in their native tongue ( a feature for most of this album), a rolling drumbeat, layered guitars and a hypnotic baseline, this track is immense. From its 'Chapterhouse' like effected guitars to its early 90's drums, 'Isabeau' is well written and structurally sound. Its complex baseline keeps the track fixed to the earth while the guitars soar and lift this listener above the clouds and beyond. That early 90's Shoegaze sound, that so many bands these days are trying to emulate, is there for most of the track but there are other influences in there too! For example, in the opening tracks quieter moments I can hear influential flurries in the mould of musical royalty - 'The Cure'.
Go check that out for yourselves:
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My second pick 'Navarre' lures us into a false sense of security from the beginning. It's a creeping monster of a track that starts off slow with sweet guitars and a stunning bass line all sitting on top of a solid beat. But don't be fooled, the vocals arrive with ease and the journey begins. This track builds into a towering inferno with infectious, layered guitars that cut through the stunning bass frequencies with ease. What happens next is a piece of musical brilliance on the bands part as in comes a Saxophone to lead the line of attack and escort us out of this immense track with charm & style. Its a stroke of genius. It adds another dimension to the wall of hazy guitars, infectious drums and it also accompanies that stunning baseline too. It gives this listener something else to focus on! Superb! This is Italian Shoegazing at its very, very best and it could well be my favourite track on '41 61 93'.
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I am very impressed with the way in which Stella Diana compose and structure their tracks. I am also impressed by the way in which they are not afraid to experiment with their song structuring, for example, by adding a brass instrument to a gaze track, or the way in which they switch between the light & dark or fast & slow moments on this album without a care. This bands ability to slow down tracks, so that we can not only hear whats going on, but actually feel whats going on musically, is second to none! That alone is testament to their prowess as songwriters. You can hear every single note on this album. In my opinion, far to many bands these days try to wow us with their abilities as pedalboard musicians and forget about the finer points of songwriting in a genre of music that is, purposefully built to tell a story, wether sonically or through a songwriters ability as a wordsmith. You should be able to follow every single second of a song and feel what the songwriters feel and in turn find a common pact with them. Yes, Shoegazing should take your hand and fly you through a sonic wall of goodness, push the air from your lungs and musically caress your ear drums, but for me, it should also tell a story. Stella Diana create & tell sonically beautiful stories through the medium of song that I can follow with ease and for that, I commend them.
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As you can probably guess, I am a Stella Diana fan, first and foremost, and a Dj second! Writing this review came very easy to me as music fan. Every single track on this album sent shivers down my spine and created musical images for me that will last and last and last. I dare you to listen to Isabeau, Navarre, 22-2-87, Edward Teach, 4.57, Ash, Regor, Dale Cooper, Motel Sagrera and then come back and tell me that they haven't moved you in some way or another. They are all immense!
You can check out Stella Diana on Facebook, Twitter and Bandcamp here.
Del Chaney - The Primal Radio Show - December 2104 - Dublin, Ireland