I’ve been tracking Stella Explorer since I saw her perform at a showcase festival three years ago. Her debut EP, ‘Dorkay House’, which is the name of an ‘underground’ gig venue for black musicians during apartheid that she or family members used to frequent in Johannesburg, was a long time coming but well worth waiting for and easily made it onto NMC’s ‘Best of 2022’ list.
I wasn’t expecting another EP quite so soon after the first one, given the delay to the first one but I suppose she’s making up for lost time, given Covid ‘n all (although I do recall her putting on hotel-based live shows throughout the pandemic). And I have to profess that I listened to this first single from the forthcoming EP, ‘Club Atlantis’, expectantly because I perceive genuine talent – and in depth – here.
There was no disappointment.
What this lady finds it easy to do is to create a melody every time that is just so – it sucks you in without offering a hook that is too strong for the lyrics and thereby detracts from them. She gets the balance just right.
In this case that serene melody is played on what looks like an ancient analogue synthesiser overlaid by an equally antediluvian drum machine, playing a similar beat to the one she used on ‘Kill it before it dies’ from the ‘Dorkay House’ EP.
The end result is a song that doesn’t sound like it’s of this era but it equally hard to place. The 1980s perhaps?
Her vocal is, as ever, lush and soothing, often at odds with the subject matter of the song.
In this case I don’t even know what that is; there are no published lyrics yet and the video is missing half of them (could that be deliberate?) Hence I’m guessing separation, detachment and reconciliation. The box that the synthesiser is parked on belongs, I think, to one of Sweden’s premier removal companies. The male wrapped around her in the video is perhaps one she can’t let go of, or vice versa.
But it also occurred to me that he might be död, to use the Swedish expression. I’m swayed towards that conclusion simply by the lyrics about “being in the clouds” which reminded me of Highasakite’s ‘Lover, where do you live’, who most certainly was.
I was amused by a line in the PR which spoke of her ‘hypnagogicvocals’. Yes, I had to look it up too. I’ll save you the trouble; it means what you mumble just before you fall asleep.
There’s no question of Stella sending anyone to sleep. Indeed what she does to me is more in the way of a hypnic jerk, that jolt that awakens you when you’re nodding off too quickly for your brain to process and it thinks you’re pegging out.
She’s a class act to use the common vernacular and the new EP can’t come fast enough.
The six track EP is called ‘The Lost Kingdom’ and is scheduled for release on 5th May on the Stockholm label YEAR0001.
In the meantime she’s been nominated for the Swedish Grammys (‘Newcomer of the Year’), along with Cornelia Jakobs who was Sweden’s Eurovision entry in 2022, which takes place two days earlier. Nice timing.
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‘Club Atlantis’ Illustration by Ellen Wetterholm.