With a rake of new shoegazing scenes popping up all around the globe, it was only a matter of time before we heard what the Italian gazers could produce. From Rome to Milan, Modena to Palermo — powerful & hard-hitting Italian ‘nugaze’ bands are creating some of the best sonic sounds, not only in Italy, but some of the best in Europe as well. That’s a pretty bold statement to make, you might say, but I’ve found a stunning collection of tracks by a band that most of you reading might only have heard a glimpse of. This is a band that I’ve been actively playing and promoting on my show (The Primal Radio Show) for a long time.
Made up of Dario Torre (vox and guitar), Giacomo Salzano (bass), Davide Fusco (drums), and Roberto Amato (guitar and synth), Stella Diana hail from Naples, Italy, and have been self-declared shoegaze and new wave freaks since 1998. The band self-released their immense debut, 41 61 93, to the masses last February. I’ve listened to the album over and over again, and although my favourite songs keep changing with every listen, I’ve picked out two great tracks that’ll hopefully showcase the quality of music that Stella Diana create.
Opening up with the massive “Isabeau,” Stella Diana set out of their shoegaze stall from the very first drum beat. With vocals recorded in their native tongue (a feature for most of this album), a rolling drumbeat, layered guitars, and a hypnotic bass line, this track is incredible. From its Chapterhouse-like effected guitars to its early 90’s drums, “Isabeau” is well written and structurally sound. Its complex bass line keeps the track fixed to the earth, while the guitars soar and lift this listener above the clouds and beyond. That early 90’s shoegaze sound, that so many bands these days are trying to emulate, is there for most of the track, but there are other influences in there too. For example, in the opening track’s quieter moments I can hear influential flurries in the mould of musical royals The Cure.
My second pick, “Navarre,” lures us into a false sense of security from the beginning. It’s a creeping monster of a track that starts off slow, with sweet guitars and a stunning bass line sitting atop a solid beat. But don’t be fooled, the vocals soon arrive and the journey begins. From here, the track builds into a towering inferno, with infectious, layered guitars that cut through the stunning bass frequencies with ease. What happens next is a bit of musical brilliance — in comes a saxophone to lead the line of attack and escort us out of this immense track with charm and style! It’s a stroke of genius that adds another dimension to the wall of hazy guitars and catching drums, and it even accompanies that stunning bass line too, giving this listener yet another thing to focus on. Superb! This is Italian shoegazing at its very, very best, and it could well be my favourite track on 41 61 93.
I am very impressed with the way in which Stella Diana compose and structure their tracks, and how they are not afraid to experiment with their song structuring by, for example, adding a woodwind instrument to a gaze track. The way they, on a whim, switch between light and dark, and fast and slow moments on this album is also very impressive. This band’s ability to slow tracks down so that not only do we hear what’s going on, but actually feel what’s going on is second to none. This alone is testament to their prowess as songwriters.
You can hear every individual note on this album. In my opinion, far too many bands these days try to wow us with their abilities as pedal board musicians while forgetting the finer points of songwriting in a genre of music that is purposefully built to tell a story, whether sonically or through a songwriter’s ability as a wordsmith. You should be able to follow every single second of a song and feel what the songwriter feels, forming a sort of bond with them. Yes, shoegazing should take your hand and fly you through a sonic wall of goodness, push the air from your lungs, and musically caress your ear drums, but for me, it should also tell a story. Stella Diana create and tell sonically beautiful stories through the medium of song that I can follow with ease and for that as well, I commend them.
As you can probably guess, I am a Stella Diana fan, first and foremost, and a critic second! Writing this review obviously came very easy to me. Every single track on 41 61 93 sent shivers down my spine and created musical images for me that will last and last and last. I dare you to listen to these tracks and come back and tell me that they haven’t moved you in some way or another. They are all immense!
DEL CHANEY is a self-confessed music freak and is never far away from a turntable. He divides his time between fronting popular electronic band Analogue Wave and uncovering and actively promoting artists from all over the globe in the shoegaze, dream pop, noise-rock, & post-rock genres with The Primal Music Blog and The Primal Radio Show. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Del is a keen vinyl collector, tattoo fan, & all round good guy.