Stems - Polemics“Polemics” by Stems is another worthy release on Fluttery Records, a delightful combination of guitars & strings that is both entertaining and challenging in equal measure.

Stems are from Huddersfield, England; and were formed in 2011 with … according to the Fluttery website …

“The idea of seeking a new relationship between experimental guitar and classical instruments, to create music with the energy of rock music but with elongated and intense structures of Western and Indian classical music.”

I have had “Polemics” on repeat for the last week and I can honestly say they have achieved their aim, and created an album that The Velvet Underground would have been proud of!

“Polemics” is an album filled with new sound. This kind of ’art rock’ isn’t particularly new, we can easily look to The Velvet Underground as an example, but their innovative approach and dynamic, skillful expression revitalise the genre and give it new life. They take folky flavours & neo-classical expression from their strings (predominately violin) and combine with guitars & methodical percussion to create their particular ’art rock’ sound.

The soundscapes presented are big, cinematic & expressive; they bring elements of post-rock, such as the emphasis on dynamic contrast or the staccato guitars on “Connery”, to their sound that expand it beyond its ’art rock’ base.

They also embody ’feeling’ with their music, giving it an ambient edge through the use of field recordings and slow-burning string pieces. This edge serves as an entry point for fans of that genre too.

Their emphasis, however, is firmly on their folk-flavoured, neo-classical ‘art rock’ expression, and I cannot get enough. I can only imagine how stunning they would be live, watching the interaction between the players as they seek to create their music, music that does indeed have the energy of rock and the structure of classical music.

The stand out track has to be “Shadows” with it’s lively jauntiness and interaction between strings & guitar. It wouldn’t be out of place on Howard Shore’s soundtrack to “Hugo”.

I believe Stems have achieved what they sought out to do & commend Fluttery for another excellent release.

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