Before we are treated to a brand new selection of songs, being debuted here in balmy Exeter, Stella Martyr treat us to a lesson in indie intellect….
Hailing from Exeter, via Birmingham, Manchester and Scunthorpe, they produce an, at first blush, quite doleful soundscape with sampled drum beats to the fore. However, these moods are shortly (en)lightened by sweetly poetic lyrical excursions (‘white and blue and yellow meet the sky / as their teardrops fall to earth’).
The minor chords and churning discordance continue, sounding like a less scabrous version of Campag Velocet, mixed with early 80’s post-punk and echoes of a mellower Mark E Smith. The lead singer’s crooning fills the room on ‘Sugar’, floating atop textured layers of treated guitar flotsam – ‘ Ice cold water invades my night / Cut me out in little stars’ he intones, as the musical swirl of chords becomes progressively more hypnotic. Soon the song, this doomed anthem, gently collapses in on itself, like the stars themselves shrinking and expanding.
‘Concrete Kisses’ (ace title!) displays retro , 90’s- style fuzzy melodies, searching beneath the surface, fumbling a little, a semi-declamatory, half-spoken vocal standing out amidst the motorik rhythms. It is all strangely compelling and I am reminded by the multi-layered guitar lines of the ever so glorious Kitchens of Distinction (some compliment).
Stella’s frontman has physical presence, yet is endearingly polite, like he might take you round the back for a harsh word and end up hugging you instead. The verdict – an Alice in Wonderland-like curiosity, worth further investigation and so different from the usual indie landfill clogging up our lives – all the better for that. Keep eyes wide and hearts open.
Review by HUGH OGILVIE