Stellamaris (Brazil): The best lo-fi Shoegaze around.
When asked for a recommendation of Latino American bands, among the list provided by Jairo Manzur, blogger extraordinaire from Sonidos Que Permanecen, was Stellamaris. A lo-fi shoegaze outfit from Brazil.
After listening first to the band musical work, I liked what they were doing, but was perplexed: as a lover of polished and over-produced sound, why did I like their music?
After listening to all their songs again, my tiny brain was wrecked: I liked them a lot. How can it be when Tokyo Shoegazer is one of my favorite band, with a sound as beautiful and cold as the moon?
As a very caricatured way of presenting their music, and only to get your attention, Stellamaris’ music is like taking My Bloody Valentine, throwing it in a tumble dryer with stones and sand, and listen to it from the other side of the half-closed door of the utility.
So why? As you know, it is relatively easy to realize when you like a song, when you are touched by an artist. Understanding why can be more of a challenge, one that was interesting when it came to Stellamaris.
After listening, again and again, the tiny little brain clicked: Intention!
Intention to use a lo-fi approach in a genre where overproduction is the norm;
Intention to create a sound for their music that differs from others by applying effects counterintuitively, by being on the brink of clumsiness;
Intention to present beautiful songs in a rickety old box to enhance them rather than to depreciate them.
This is a bold move, one that can result either in alienating the listener that will fail to latch on their take on Shoegaze or in creating a cult following. I made my choice and will be part of the second and as such am delighted to present them to you.
Introduction to Stellamaris' music
The comparison game
It is always fun to play the comparison game with other bands. From the outside, the recipe for Stellamaris could be:
- A spoonful of Pavement, the masters at taking many instrumental parts that sound raw and clumsy on their own, and make great songs when all put together. They are the demonstration that the whole can be significantly better than the part.
- A sprinkle of Chris Knox, the mad genius that did beautiful songs, diamond in the rough, and used his own artistic sand paper to make them rougher again
- My Bloody Valentine for the sound, the beautiful melodies, the vision of what their sound should be
Stir together: here is a recipe for Stellamaris.
Why we Like them so much
- Stellamaris are courageous artists: They took the norm of the genre and reversed it inside out. They are not going for nicer, better, more polished sound, to follow in the steps of Slowdive or MBV. They are keeping a primal, back to basics.
- Their use of effects is clever: throwing the voice in the background without filling space with guitars, Keeping the bass off-kilter, without compressing it, and many other artistic choices.
- They make beautiful songs, touching and sincere, stripped of makeup and artifices
- And well… I like Brazilian music
Stellamaris Musical Work
Ultra EP - April 2017
Pushed to the extreme of the sound spectrum, like ultraviolet is on one side of the light spectrum, the voice is sent into the background, without being covered too much by the guitars, a trademark of Stellamaris. It leaves space to the sung melodic line to unfold.
Maybe one of the most polished songs. Beautiful melody lines cross over. The guitar whirling around in a mad wave, and screeching noise in the background, close to industrial music.
An excellent song, with maybe the clearer bass/drum combo of their work, giving it an almost polished sound. The distorted guitars are added just like an after -thought. It is a very happy go lucky song.
You can imagine yourself listening to it walking and whistling to it. The walls of feedback then hit you, just enhancing the song beautifully, not crushing the rest, rather complementing as the digital info, a mix of guitars and synth, that works very well with the title and what Stellamaris tries to achieve.
Seesaw EP - October 2016
Almost identical to Neon in a MBV like guitar, this song shows that Stellamaris can polish the sound if they wanted to and that the lo-fi feeling is an artistic choice. Mauricio’s voice is also soft and in a tune to the rest, again showing the possibilities in vocal harmonies. Only the bass if off-kilter, bringing the song to a light state of unbalance on purpose. A perfect example of their intention of taking a song and putting it through their artistic filters to get their sound, their way.
Mauricio says on this song:
“Seesaw is about the feeling that you are always returning to the same place you should not, like to an ex, or when someone tries to quit smoke but always returns to that psychological situation”
Maybe the clearest mix of music and Shoegaze Portuguese lyrics. It is very bare in term of Shoegaze effects. It is closer to Mazzy Star than MBV in that respect. The voice, ever the main driver, is still sent in the background to leave space for the simple guitar. Very peaceful piece.
A musical piece, working on guitars playing with each other. Short (2.28), it is almost like a pause in their musical work, presenting the guitars, showing how they can play with effects and polish sound. It is like a glimpse into what they could do is Stellamaris has chosen another artistic path
It is a fantastic song, which I can not stop listening. The collaboration between Duelectrum and
It is a fantastic song, which I cannot stop listening. The collaboration between Duelectrum and Stellamaris is one of these examples where the sum is greater than the part. They seem a marriage made in heaven. Departing from the usual sound, more produced, clean, without losing the lo-fi, the off-kilter hedge that is their trademark.
Stellamaris EP - July 2013
Peso do Ar
The use of the tambourine is a very “Jesus and Mary Chain way” to add a very nice lightness thanks in doubling the beat in what could be a heavy and slower, heavier song. Adds a spring in the song’s step.
The guitar at the back with tremolo/flanger is not on time, a bit like being in a sea-battered by waves, somehow cahotic. The double of the voice makes an extra melodic line that goes very well there.
Stellamaris uses of synth to add various textures to the song. The voice is in the background, like a shy teenager thinking of getting diamond for the person he/she loves.
The synth evoke the sparkles from the diamond, title of the song, and when the song fades out, you realized that you have passed this diamond in the window of a shop, and move on with you life, leaving it behind.
The melody and Shoegaze are excellent. You can imagine it polished, produced and mastered to give a fantastic final product. Again Stellamaris use “Paille de fer” and its unique approach that makes it a low-fi pearl.
A folk song, guitar and harmonica. Then distorted guitar on top like a loud person inviting itself in a place he should not be. The voice is out of tune almost, very low pitch. Almost Mazzy staresque. No autotune there. Like a demo song, a thought of what’s to come.
Well, you may have understood that I love Stellamaris' lo-fi Shoegaze and am looking forward to their new release, an EP they are working on.
I hope that the above made you enjoy their music as much as I do. This week and next week, dive further into their music and who they are, with a presentation of the band, a famous 5 playlist with 5 key songs of the band's life, and finally a great interview. stay tuned for more.
And as usual:
- Listen to their music
- Support the band by buying their work and liking their FB page