CD: Geska Records GSK0501 [2005]

Citylights slide behind you, and you are just like a small star lost in the night
Waiting for a new day
Lonely souls can't dance
Killing the man in the mirror
5 a.m. when the night kisses the day
Numbered, well ordered, stocked in a big grey square of boxes (Metropolitan disease)
Sigiriya's tear
Cold vapour smoke was coming from his mouth
Walking above the clouds
Sssilence, sleeping in the Japanese garden
Monsters are getting closer - black shadows swallow dreams
Waking up into unknown lands
Falling leaves, like red pillows on my wounds
Frozen sun
Can you hear my call?

There's a lot of electronica and 'intelligent dance music' (how I loathe that term, and the overtones of sniffy elitism it carries) that's perfectly competent, even quite good, yet hampered by a bland sterility that leaves it sounding somewhat soulless and uninspiring. Thankfully there's still people like Stendeck, a.k.a. Alessandro Zampieri, who are willing to infuse the genre with a somewhat more human touch. Having originally trained as a pianist, he is not about to let the listener forget this; the first two tracks serve as a showcase of this particular talent, with the addition of a twangy electric guitar on the second as if to casually show off his versatility. The guitar comes back later on too, overdriven to square-clipping levels but without sounding even remotely metal, which is nice.

The man clearly knows his rhythms, with several of the tracks marrying an almost Iszoloscope/Imminent Starvation level of intensity to a delicate, dare I say it, funkiness; like powernoise but you can tap your foot to it, with the crunchy beats and breaks left sparse enough to let the recurring piano motifs and Tekniq/Haiku-style synth patterns come through. There's fifteen tracks on this CD, and several of them are more like interludes than complete compositions, just long enough to demonstrate the effectiveness of a particular loop or sequence. But often that's all you need, and it would do some artists good to remember this.

This is a genre where it's hard to avoid sounding a touch generic occasionally - although perhaps that's true of anything that qualifies as a genre, by definition - and not every number on here is the kind that ends up playing in your head for the rest of the day. For that matter, I can't help thinking of Black Lung when I hear pianos in this sort of music - but sadly almost any other band will suffer from a comparison with David Thrussell, the Steven Stapleton of the dark electronica scene, who's quite happy to work anything from pianos and banjos to anti-smoking self-hypnosis tapes and 1920s surrealist tone-poets into his tunes. These qualms notwithstanding, Stendeck is still a cut above many of the faceless bedroom beatmongers out there, and a good candidate to fill the gap left by the demise of the archetypal Gridlock.


[Stendeck] / [Geska Records]

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