Stellarscope – Living Under The Radar
||Country of Origin: USA
Record Label: Independent
Catalogue #: –
Year of Release: 2006
Samples: Click here
Tracklist: The Penitence (3:44), Union’s End (3:54), Alone (3:08), Inside Out (4:10), Summer Handbook (3:19), Understand (4:58), Our Last Dance (6:19), I Am Dead (5:29), New Start (4:11), Such Is Life (4:53), Nearly Stars (2:26), Deception In The Word (8:49)
One of the most uncomfortable situations that can appear when writing a review for DPRP is when the album to be reviewed has absolutely nothing to do with prog. This is the case with Stellarscope, an American trio formed by vocalist/guitarist Tommy Lugo. Stellarscope is around for 11 years now and they have released lots of full length albums and EP’s. Living under the radar is their latest try and the first I come across with.
On their website and their biography, one can find an endless list of influences, spanning half the rock genre, but nothing but Pink Floyd that is part of the prog community. Then again, is there anybody out there not influenced by Floyd? To me the most basic element of their song-writing is noise. Noise the way Sonic Youth have defined it, the way Smashing Pumpkins popularised it, the way Radiohead have experimented with it, the way Sigur Ros keep on preserving it. The other axis is the post-punk rather than post-rock philosophy behind the songs: very raw tracks, sometimes you get the impression that they entered the studio and recorded the songs in a couple of days, without almost any post-processing. The overcast legacy of Joy Division survives here too, together with a hidden, lurking, more lush, elegant, even romantic one (My Bloody Valentine, even Cocteau Twins with a bit of imagination) – I say lurking and hidden because the noise covers it all at the first listen. One can also find elements of Space-Rock in the way they sometimes experiment with some tunes and concepts. In fact, when they go psychedelic, and less noisy (mainly the guitars, like in New Start), the result is more interesting, at least to an ear trained with prog. The percussion is more than welcome when it appears, and I have the impression that more synths and keyboards would make the final result more appealing. Indeed, the best tracks of the albums do not lack synths. Finally, some songs are reminiscent of Sabbath or Bauhaus, like, as you might have guessed from the title, I Am Dead.
Something that really made it hard for me to get into the album and obliged me to dig deep in order to discover some beauty in this release is the really horrible production. I understand that the band is self-sustained but this result is repulsive for a huge audience – especially the prog audience, being used to crystal clear productions. I have to admit though, that after a lot of tries and attempts, I did discover parts I like, ideas that talk to me and tracks with a character. Particularly, tracks Union’s End, Summer Handbook, Our Last Dance and the mysterious nine minute Deception In The Word are very powerful tracks that gave me the courage and the will to come back to the album after the first disappointing listens. The last track in particular features a very different way of singing on behalf of Tommy Lugo compared to the rest of the album (more lyrical), even a more witty song writing that vaguely reminded me of And Also The Trees. More mellow, more melodic and more subtle. Still, I repeat: this has absolutely nothing to do with prog. If some of you out there are interested, please do visit the Myspace page of the band to hear some clips (unfortunately not many from this album). For the rest, this is another genre and I have to leave it unrated. But to be honest, it grows in a very weird way…