Visions of something else

Sternpost + Croche offer alternative worlds

Sternpost – Ulrika

Concentric Circles

2024 Repress

LP – Black Vinyl

This has completely disarmed us…

Sternpost is Petter Herbertsson, a Swedish librarian who when not at work disappears into a mystical world of achingly beautiful melody, Cantebury Psyche magic and baroque pop. It’s weird because everything about the presentation of this before delving in makes you think it’s a discordant noise project or some free folk freaks lost in the woods but you can’t get much further out here. Ulrika is utterly breathtaking work, some deep Robert Wyatt collabing with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci slanted and decanted arrangements, some oblique songwriting that sounds like ZombiesOdyssey & Oracle by way of BBC Radiophonic Workshop and plenty of playing that sounds like that sweetspot in say, 1970, before prog rock and after psyche. This is music you HAVE to hear.

 

At its heart though, Herbertsson’s project is a DIY pop record: the playing is impeccable, the arrangements novel and fresh but it sounds like a super pro studio recording from 1969 just discovered on a reel-to-reel in Stockholm (did I mention this is sung entirely in Swedish? Who cares though). All the glockenspiel, vibes, walking basslines, lush chord progressions, it almost makes us think of The Pastels circa NOW baby. I also checked it was ok with SP to make this reference. It turns out Stephen is digging Sternpost too so it’s all good in Love and not war.

 

There’s so much to love about this album. The stretching out on Delta alternativa segel reminds a little of The Pastels’ soundtrack work, Ulrika har en bil presses those Euros Childs buttons along with the bleeps and bloops on whatever vintage synth they’re using. The criss crossing vibes and flutes weaving through out the record are like teleportation to a better place, it’s just truly stunning. Really bucolic sounding, a sun-dappled meander through some enchanted Malmo woods (are there woods in Malmo?)…

 

In all honesty I can’t believe this music exists in 2024, in best possible way. The original pressing of Ulrika sold out instantly (don’t check Discogs I implore you) and has now been repressed by our pal Jed’s label Concentric Circles (which you know from that limited Shizuka cassette repress amongst other delights).

 

Give yourself over to some magic.

Croche

Songs Of The Red Dragon

(Foundation Petya Sasser Rike)

LP – Black Vinyl

 

Croche is a new-to-us artist otherwise known as Gabrielle Desjean but I suspect it’ll be an artist name that resurfaces frequently in the future. Sumptuous, fragile and gorgeous R&B inflected bedroomified pop music that, I have to say, we completely eat up ravenously here. Deep bass pulls, instinctive melodies and a powerful emotive core that belies its DIY origins, Songs Of The Red Dragon is a fiery keeper.

Everyone needs touchstones I guess, so where to start? Of recent action, if you dug Astrid Sonne’s foray into structured, sung music you’ll be setting out on the right foot. More abstract that Nite Jewel, say, but definitely shares some of the dreamy R&B-isms: Desjean clearly thrives in the reeds of her DAW (It’s a computer music term, just means the program she’s recording on, ok?) with some absolutely stunning passages of glistening, Digital synth work and thudding, joyful beats carving up the space between your ears. Songs of The Red Dragon is clearly a “bedroom pop” record but Desjean possesses not only top class production skills that make much of this sound H-U-G-E but also some serious music chops that she doesn’t beat into the listener. On the titular Red Dragon her vocal acrobatics surf the waves of synth pads like Caroline Polachek several registers lower. I Am Stone is an absolutely pounding New Age habag disco slammer, with the kick side chained into next week. Really hard not to move when this is heating up the headphones.

 

Tracks like Aliens Calling are lovely detours, with processed acoustic guitars and a multi-tracked vocal which feels free, naturally pouring out Desjean’s vocal chords with ease and freedom. In fact, these days hearing electronic pop music without that PC Music-coded autotune feels like some small victory for humanity. Like on Falling Walls, an a cappella vocal performance with Desjean’s harmonies pricking the shivers up the spine. The abstract vulnerability of the closer Where Is My Mind reminds me a tiny bit of Berntholer, but that’s solely because Desjeans has a Francophile accent, but it can’t be a bad thing to be reminded of Berntholer in my book.

 

A pretty great debut that’s going to get many spins here.

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