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Stellar OM Source - Trilogy Select


Olde Spelling Bee

The fashion for exploratory synth music has taken an intriguing turn in the last couple of years, helped not least by Daniel Lopatin’s mesmerising work under his Oneohtrix Point Never guise. This re-appropriation of the vintage glory of analogue has never really gone away, but the fact that they aren’t aligned with the metronomic functionality of dance music or the washed-out banality of ambient makes this new crop of musicians, including Christelle Gualdi (aka Stellar OM Source), a more captivating bunch to listen to.

Trilogy Select is a compilation of Gualdi’s older material on three separate albums from 2005 to 2009, including “Ocean Woman”, “Alliance” and “Crusader” now put out by that rather wonderful and alchemical label, Olde Spelling Bee. I’ll try to avoid all the current journalistic buzz terms that seems to surround them, like “hypnagogic” for example, but there’s a kaleidoscopic melting-pot feel to her music that makes ignoring them hard.  Like the aforementioned Lopatin, who guests briefly on the album, Gualdi’s reference points of dream-states and the romance of 80’s cybernetic futurism all lead towards a similar musical aesthetic.  As such, the guilty pleasure of the arpeggio and the charged rush of sweeping sinewaves mixed up with tape hiss are central to much of the music here.

It’s difficult to discuss this music without a nod of paternal influence to Tangerine Dream and Gualdi is no different, with the sounds and ideas of “Zeit” in particular looming large over proceedings like a dark, rumbling cloud.  Like that classic, there’s a deliciously warm patina of fuzz that surrounds all the tracks on this album and it’s this historical quality that makes it all the more engaging. “Time Sensitive” lurches gorgeously all over the place with squealing noises and sequenced loops going out of time, with little in the way of digital manipulation to be heard.

Gualdi has said in interviews that she likes to play “with both hands” and you can hear that, as all manner of sounds crisscross around the listener.  You’ve barely time to take a breath before something of a different texture barges the other one out of the way, albeit in a friendly, chaotic fashion. She’s also a dab hand at emotional resonance. “Zones under Influence” bubbles atonally with diabolical menace and chatter, whereas in “Red Green Blue” her melodies fly into the stratosphere, intertwining to breathtaking effect at times.  She’s not afraid to make things deliberately lo-fi either, with the slumbering “Rites of Fusion” sounding like it’s gathering more and more dust on the tape as it wheezes past the 4 minute mark.

What’s most apparent through all of these compositions, which I suspect are live jams, is their musical strength. Not so much in the arrangements, but in their individuality - Gualdi’s melodies and ideas grow in your consciousness with each repeated listen and her songs worm their way into your affection.  Like anyone with a smart pop aesthetic, she keeps it short too, tantalising you with short segments of brilliance. “Island Mind” sparkles like a brilliant star whilst waves of sound crash all around. Yet it’s over in a flash.

Trilogy Select being a compilation cannot be judged as an album as such, but for those unaware of Gualdi’s work, it serves as a richly satisfying piece for entering somewhere  that brings back some of the original spirit of electronic music, transporting you albeit briefly, to a new world.

Toby Frith

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