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Stem Stem In Electro

Stem Stem In Electro

Stem Stem In Electro is the second release from Hrsta and the latest full-length statement from longtime Canadian musician Mike Moya. A founding member of Godspeed You Black Emperor, a member of Molasses, Set Fire To Flames, and a member of Elizabeth Anka Vajagic's live band, he's left his mark on nearly a dozen releases in the past eight years or so. Overall, the release is a little bit more aggressive than L'éclat du ciel était insoutenable, and it's still haunted by the swirling, sometimes otherworldly guitar tones that Moya tugs from his guitar.

The opening track of "...And We Climb" is a perfect example of where things head on the album, as the track builds with squalls of guitar and a fervent chanting chorus of "We Climb To The Light" sung over minor-key progressions. The two elements work in contradictory ways, and as a result the track comes across like some sort of twisted trance-inducing hymn. "Blood On The Sun" continues with the stark guitars and the truly unique vocals of Moya (which, like Devendra Banhart's, are hard to distinguish in terms of gender much of the time).

The middle of the release shows off the most consistent tracks from the group as "Folkways Orange" builds with one of the more dense arrangements on the entire release while "Swallow's Tail" is an eight-minute piece that moves from a scraping opening pulse to one of the more eerie tracks on the release. The latter alternates between whispered vocals that tip-toe across minimal swirling backdrops and loud bursts of instrumental furor that recall the work of GYBE themselves.

Unfortunately, there are places on the release where the group seems to lose their focus, and while they're still capable of creating plenty of dark, atmospherics, tracks like "Heaven Is Yours" feel like even more meandering castaways from improvised Set Fire To Flames sessions with their overlapping feedback layers and creaky haunted-house clanging. The group redeems themselves a bit on the last couple tracks of the release, including the concise and beautiful "Gently Gently" and the long instrumental closer of "Une Infinité De Trous En Forme D'Hommes" (which winds through ever-growing psych-rock passages before closing out with subtle vocals and strings). As a whole, Stem Stem In Electro still has a few soft spots, but is much more developed overall than the debut release from Hrsta.

Rating: 6.5