Stardeath: Psychedelic Supergroup of the Future
Andy Seroff | Monday, September 14, 2009
There’s a new drug sweeping the nation. It takes you soaring on an intergalactic rocket race around the Sun, then leaves you chilling in an igloo lounge on Pluto. Before you call the DEA, let me clarify. The drug is no substance at all, merely the psychedelic tracks of Stardeath and White Dwarves, a new progressive rock quartet out of Oklahoma City.
The group has toured with Deerhoof, British Sea Power, Band of Horses, and of course, their musical comrades and fellow Oklahomans, The Flaming Lips, who they traveled with as roadies and as an opening act. Their debut album, appropriately named “The Birth,” was released this summer, and they went on a short tour to promote it.
“The Birth” is a very strong album. It starts off with a contemporary sound, echoing their cousins from the Sooner State. The tracks are well structured, full-bodied, and catchy. As you progress, the tracks get more and more spacious, reminiscent of a modern Pink Floyd. In this way, “The Birth” never really falters – it just progresses (or regresses) stylistically. Credit to the album’s producer, Trent Bell, who laid out the material in such a way to assist this meta-cohesiveness.
Stardeath’s more dominant ego takes after The Flaming Lips. Their more radio-worthy and lyrically significant singles all feel very Lips-esque. For example, “New Heat,” has an enthusiastic pulse while maintaining a truly exquisite chorus of falsetto vocal harmonies over powerful acoustic strumming and reverbed, atmospheric electric guitar. Instrumental solos pick up where the vocals leave off, rounding out a dynamic sonic journey. “Keep Score,” the following track, is the same ego, just toned down into a simpler groove, which doubles as a transitional piece into the spacey songs that follow.
The unique, second-child ego of Stardeath’s breaks out in “The Birth”. This surfacing is highlighted by the heavily-instrumental passages, where words serve only as a vessel for the sound of the voice singing them (“Love, can be heavy/if you, you’re not ready”). The atmospheric groove disassembles into noise, is released into silence, and then the headbang chorus throttles into the space left behind.
“The Birth” transitions right into “Those Who Are from the Sun Return to the Sun,” which is the most liberated song of the album. The instrumental power funk rockets unceasingly forward, throttling the listener into an out-of-control state. The bass player exhibits his talent with unbelievable riffs at blazing speeds, while the drummer, who broke his drum set while recording his part to this song, keeps right along with the bass. With this track, Stardeath shows off their ability to play this psychedelic rock fast as well as slow.
Debut albums are one of the most important albums of a band’s career – with it they establish a fan base that will expect music set by the precedent of the debut. Albums like “The Birth” are a great way to start a musical career, because Stardeath and White Dwarves have essentially given themselves a wide platform on which to build on. From such a dynamic album such as this, they can build on either musical ego, or continue blending the two.
The album art, which is a super close-up, expressive, black and white face superimposed over space, may be off-putting at first, but it encapsulates the album well. Stardeath and White Dwarves venture from the massive depth of space, to the hyper-intensity of a face. Somewhere in between, there’s a band with big shoes to fill and a future in musicmaking.