Before the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra was formed another set of recordings was completed. The Stella Maris LP, The Entropy Circus Present Stella Maris, brings the new recording techniques using Cool Edit to a more typical Entropy Circus album. The gliding dronescapes of the Stella Maris EP only really recur in the first section of the fifteen minute closing track Headkickers Revival Church, which is more notable for complex jump-cut edits in the middle section which brings in a fully motorik groove, which in spite of its Mixolydian major tonality employs significant chromaticism.
Elsewhere there are more songwriterly tracks occurring: Wah Wah Baker deploys a melodic structure reminiscent of Elizabethan madrigals during the verse part and during the chorus, which explicitly references Boney M’s Ma Baker, it crunches into what is possibly the most metal thing that I had recorded thus far.
The metal is back in two sections of Attar, here accompanied by Moogish riffing on the Red Sound Darkstar, in a groove which was clearly inspired by Kling Klang; I had met Joe Klang on KRMB and had seen them play several times when they came down to London from Liverpool. The other part of Attar is a loping 3/4 number, not unlike You Don’t Bring Me Fishes on Quails Are Given. It is a hazy, broken narrative of loss which cannot decide whether it is taking place during snow or a shower of roses. It is also in strong contrast to the Moog metal section of the track. The two halves are bolted together almost arbitrarily and the frame of the title Attar holds them in place.
The other song on this album, Juggernaut, is a chiming drone pop complaint: “every day is a juggernaut that’s bearing down on me”. There are hints of Indian folk music on here which suggest the Lord of the Universe, Jagganatha, who is etymologically implied by the juggernaut. The lyrics however reference CS Lewis and the Jehovah’s Witness kingdom hall in Stamford Hill. I’ve attempted to play this one several times live and some of the lines are difficult to sing in conjunction with one another; the places where one would usually breathe are sometimes absent. I suspect that I might have recorded the vocals in several takes and then patched it together.
The two other instrumental here are a mixture of old and new. On The Lighting Panels Are Full of Insects, the lead guitar is filtered through the Darkstar; a fast LFO fluttering its overdrive with strange vibrato. And The Last Overcoat Made in Walthamstow attempts to fuse bossa nova with the mood of Slow Plough from Paddington Hardstare. The playing however feels brittle on this. My technique didn’t feel up to the challenges of this piece. Either the way that I had played the original was no longer in my repetoire or some indefinable alchemy that had allowed me to record Slow Plough was now lost.
But there was a lot of good new material arriving, and there were new techniques developing as I got to grips with Cool Edit. And while drones were present, especially those generated by timestretching single notes, there was a lot of melodic material here which was a definite move away from the Stella Maris EP. So, by the time that the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra happened in the autumn I was already doing quite different things.
There is one hint of the sleevenotes which may account for the importance of engaging with live music: “this album is dedicated to the memory of Denise Fontenoy”. My maternal grandmother had died earlier in the year and my my grandfather would follow her in a few months. This had acted as a sort of memento mori. It felt important to do things and do them now, and going out into the world and playing music in front of people felt like one of those urgent things that I had to do. Unfortunately, at least at first, it wouldn’t develop quickly enough.
Stella Maris LP can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.
Next: Royal Free Electric.