ARTIST: Star of Heaven
RELEASE: Vinter 2015
RELEASE DATE: 13/01/16
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
There is a crime that we all feverishly commit. That crime is association. That crime is perceptive connection. It occurs when we see things (or in this case two things) that we associate with something else; whether that be an object, an idea, a theorem, a place; and the list goes on and on. The art of musical association is the product of history and in this case, genre. Imagine reading the words ‘post-rock’ and Stockholm together. For some it means nothing; but for others, who are fans of this type of music, it is two things; the land that sits comfortably around the Norwegian Sea and the genre of ambient post-rock. Together they amount to a generic band. Ambience reflective of places like Iceland and Sweden coupled with a love for post-rock; Agent Fresco, Kimono and many others have done it before. What does this all mean? Well… To put it frankly I was excepting some copycat and rehashed musical antics from way up on the freezing cold rim of the world… And then I listened to the band…
Star of Heaven are a Swedish post-rock/ambient/instrumental band from Stockholm who have just self- released their debut album Vinter. The band is a five piece featuring all the ingredients necessary for churning out post-rock ambience, but instead they use these powers to forge a deeper and more orchestral sound; ambient to the point of serenity.
The EP begins with ‘Track 1’ (yes, you read that correctly, no tracks actually have names) a monumental seven minute epic of gentle and swaying proportions. It is too easy to write words about this song (and indeed many on the album) because it would not do it justice. The piano opens the song with such beauty, such ambience, that I listened to it five times in the row. It builds and builds; staying strong while masquerading as weak; feeble yet intelligent, dark but cinematic… This song is about conjured emotion; so heavy and so still; like drowning in a frozen lake. It is pure genius (a term not to be thrown around lightly). The band then unleash the slow and guitar slide ridden ‘Track 2’, which feels downtempo and as a result becomes almost thought provoking at around the two minute mark. The instruments rise up and down, as a listener rides a proverbial boat with miniscule waves and then the drums seep through and add a tribal element with the introduction of strings at the three minute point. The track sways and sways, on a void of distant contemplation then demotes itself into a lighter and looser tempo toward the closing of the song.
‘Track 3’ sounds like a film soundtrack and toys with more ambient themes. A fantastic point on the album, ‘Track 3’ utilizes the tapping drums to brilliant heights, adding an element of continuity to the song. Finally in the middle the music dips and the guitars pick away at a picture of an icy sunset; only too slide back into the minimalist groove of the songs introduction. The melody on this track is outstanding. The fourth track switches it mood to fit the echoing guitar. All the music swells with slight, meddling notes and strums that disappear into the background; drowned by tranquillity. The airy, floating production is immense and most prevalent on this track. Track 6 is perhaps the least melodic on the album. The guitars sound heavier and halfway through the band turns on itself and spits out an almost experimental tone which produces such a brilliant result that the music ceases down into a tangled jam session mixed with the signature production so relevant on the entire outing. This track is by far the loosest track; the drums swing along as the piano takes a backseat for one of the few moments on the album and the screechy guitar feeds through; fantastic.
Finally the closing ‘Track 7’ brings together all the other track elements and turns up the tempo again. After so much slow, ambient piano music, ‘Track 7’ produces pure and enigmatic post-rock. It is wavy and cold and the song moves along slowly but surely on the hilt of the guitars and the slow, humming bass. When the music eases down to the minimalist tap of the drums, equipment with cymbals and quiet background music, the listener feels lost as the sound steps away; but into the background, and silence hushes over the band. On Vinter the fantastic use of piano ties the songs together while the other instruments provide the most spectacular background noise to produce a fantastic sound. The band is helped by the fact that it lacks a vocalist; as I think that a vocalist would turn the listener’s attention away from the sheer rawness of the tracks on the album. In this sense, the band’s music stays at an equal level with the listener; rather than raising itself above.
What do I say? How can I convey mood to paper? Tone to words? I can’t… And as I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite I finally admit that any written words on this album are trash. They are useless… They sound pretentious even if they aren’t and tiny at best. This album is music for scenery; it creates a picture of a cold snowy day, riding along the side of a lake on a frozen highway or sitting atop a mountain as the fog rolls over. It is melodic; with great performances and absolutely beautiful instrumentation. It is emotive, it is slow, it is fast, it is tight and it is loose. This is not music that can be put into words and I cannot emphasise that enough. I cannot emphasise this album enough. I don’t throw around ratings like this… But this is utter brilliance; this is something so beautiful that you’ll have to listen to it over and over and over. And after that, you’ll listen again. The music will literally lead you into your own imagination. It takes you from the cold industrial steel to the forest floor; far away from droning amateurs and over-done production.
There, honestly, isn’t really anything else to say… Just do yourself a favour and listen. And listen…. And listen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
C. Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.