Okay, before I start this review proper, I need to point something out. I never considered myself to be a fan of gothic genre music of any kind. Until very recently that is, when, through the Ms Deed and The Master of Chaos re-education programme (see our Shows page for info) actually I discovered that bands like Sisters of Mercy and The Cure were not at all what I believed them to be back in the day. And then along came Stella Wembley, and the mist fell from my eyes. I mean my ears. You know what I mean.
So, that point out of the way, let's start from when we were contacted by Michelle and Oliver last week with a polite request to consider reviewing their new album, out April 16th. This request arrived just as I was sorting out the next wave of new bands and artists for our station, and so I said of course, not really knowing what to expect.
This isn't a goth album, or an alternative pop album, or anything else that is easily definable. It's like Nirvana and Clannad married and spawned a child that went on to be a mutant that swallowed both bands and all of their influences too. And then married a child spawned by The Cure and Garbage and had a new mutant all of their own!
What is truly amazing, that all these different strains of music have blended to produce a StarChild of an album. There's no forced mixing of music genres, no clumsy seques from one style to another. Instead, it's a whole new sound that is seductive in its effortless performance.
It's a rock sub-genre, no doubt, and it's a goth sub genre for sure, and it's a pop culture that evokes a lot of half-memories of things that have come before. In other words, all the influences are there but elusive to grasp. And that elusivity is actually a strength of the album, because to be honest, when you listen to the album, it evokes feelings rather than thoughts. By this I mean, it's simply too good an album for you really analyse. You're too busy listening and enjoying the experience.
In Michelle's email, she said that she and Oliver were "diving into a whole new genre described as ghostpop, avant garde noirrock, ethereal dark disco, ambient darkpop". I would add that underneath all of that is a vein of rock. Dark rock to be sure, but rock nevertheless.
Speaking of Michelle, her voice is achingly beautiful. She sounds like an angel, but one that has fallen. Listen very carefully, and you can hear underneath the ethereal harmony of her vocals, an anger, a bitterness that is just waiting to entice you into the shadows... and then take a bite at your throat.
In the meantime, Oliver's guitar playing is open, expansive, deceptively simple in execution, but gives each track, to quote a certain Jim Steinman, "the voice of a horny angel!" Mix all that in with some new age style keyboard work and a blend of Twin Peakesque gothic drums and bass, you can see why it is hard to pin this album down.
Actually, it's not hard. It's simple: this is a magnificent beast of an album that does what all great music does; it takes you on a magical journey, full of Vampires and Angels. And then afterwards leaves you wanting to go back and start the journey again.
The album is released on the 16th of April, but we will be giving it a FIRST LOOK on Ms Deed's Adventures in Music on Friday 27th March from 7pm, with Nick's Darkness and Chaos, and my own The Wednesday Supplement AND The Baron's Rock Show adding it to our playlists going forward.
But yeah, I think you can probably tell. I loved it.