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
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.