Hrsta – Stem Stem in Electro

Yet another old unpublished review. The first line is now inaccurate, after having reviewed the latest Silver Mt. Zion.

Stem Stem motherfuckersThis may be the first review of a Constellation records release on thegrotto, but it’s far from my first Constellation record. Anyway, even setting aside their Ascii-unfriendly name (which features Hebrew dots under the R S and T, and apparently means the band name is pronounced “hershta”), there’s a lot about Hrsta that is a little unusual. This, like much of the Constellation roster, and as just about every review of a Constellation release will tell you, is basically a particular take on a musical style labeled post-rock. The best description I’ve seen of post-rock is something along the lines of “rock instrumentation utilised for non-rock purposes”. Hrsta certainly fit this bill, with guitars, drums, bass and keyboards, but the songs generally lack the structure of rock. That said, they’re a lot closer to rock than many Constellation bands. And hopefully that’s where I stop comparing them to their label-mates.

So, the album kicks off with a song that builds up a gentle momentum, beginning with just a guitar, and then moving into a chorus singing “…we climb, and we climb, to the light, to the light…” over and over. “Blood on the Sun” is a gentle mournful song that features a slide guitar at the end that clearly evokes David Gilmour…

I’m not entirely sure if I should say the following or not, but I will anyway: A lot of this record blatently references Pink Floyd. I don’t know if this is intentional, but there are two passages in particular where the resemblance is uncanny, to the point of outright plagiarism.

Anyway, after a simple slow instrumental with a lengthy french name I can’t quite remember (Hrsta, as with most of the acts on the Montreal-based Constellation, is French Canadian), a cool little song called “Folkways Orange” comes in sounding distinctly psychadelic. “Swallow’s Tail”, probably the unanimous highlight of the record, has an impressively infectious guitar melody repeated throughout. Also a certain points you could literally swear you were listening to the Pink Floyd track “Let There Be More Light”. Being a fairly psychadelic band, most people listening to this will know that particular track, so why would they just rip it off? I don’t exactly know what the deal is there, but it does detract slightly from an otherwise strong track.

“Heaven is Yours” is a dark sounding soundscape of sorts that doesn’t really say much musically, but really focusses the slightly dark aura surrounding this album into a dense black cloud of bleak unnerving calm. “Gently Gently” is another little song that doesn’t move around much, but builds a nice atmosphere around its simple composition.

And finally we come to the other direct Floyd comparison. The last track, with another french name, is literally a jam based on the final section of the title track from “A Saucerful of Secrets”. Particularly at the end where they even add a choir that sounds exactly like said track. I have a suspicion this is intentional, because I can’t see how Moya (the man at the helm here) could possibly not know these Floyd records inside out. Still, at least they’re taking from the earlier psychadelic Floyd material, rather than the epic sound most modern bands choose to ape.

Well, anyway, overall this is a pretty unexciting album. It never really takes off the ground, but it does have a nice dark psychadelia sound to it that seems to ideally suit listening on a summer evening with some friends, one of which is a little bit annoying in some circumstances, but is currently proving to be pleasant and enjoyable company. The one issue that really plagues the record for me, are these blatent Pink Floyd references. Okay, reference them, but to build entire songs around single ideas from their songs is just not really going to impress me. So, by all means an okay album, but nothing particularly stunning (which is okay, because it obviously isn’t trying to blow anybody away). I would call this “lunchtime music” which is a phrase and idea I just invented to describe music that would be ideally played at a music festival just after or during lunch time, as opposed to being a headline act like the majority of bands try to be. But then it probably also works after midnight with a glass of cider, or maybe at 5.00AM having been woken up by a man dressed as a cow ringing a bell and throwing lemons at your window.

Man, that summary was a bit long. So in short: It’s an album that doesn’t try to grab you by the balls, doesn’t particularly grab you by the balls, but does tickle you gently in the balls, and references Pink Floyd an alarming amount, by the balls. Or whatever, I mean it’s not like you’re going to buy this record. Just go away, now.

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