Having been producing music solidly for almost 20 years now, Parov Stelar – easily the most recognised name in electro swing, has good reason to approach his releases a little differently. As I mentioned in my latest review of his, Voodoo Sonic represents a trilogy of EPs that collectively make up what is essentially a full album. It’s an interesting method of putting his music out there, and the consequences are that we get more music, with less time in between releases, and that’s something that I’m sure everyone can appreciate. This EP represents the third and final of the trilogy, and again, provides Stelar with another opportunity to demonstrate why he should remain on top.
The first track is ‘Black Martin’, a beautiful number which starts with a lone piano – such an effective instrument for creating this atmospheric, cinematic mood. The dance beat comes in very smoothly, and whilst the piano becomes a little simplistic as the song progresses, the other instruments manage to recover the initial feeling. A great way to start the release – it’s the Stelar we know, yet clear he’s pushing his music in new ways. This continues into ‘Purple Moon’, which whilst slightly more familiar, is still slower than we might expect, and not really a dance number as such. There’s a really nice fusion of stride piano here with some French jazz manouche – and later on a Spanish guitar emerges as well; together with Stelar’s Austrian roots, this is a very culturally European track. This Spanish influence becomes even more explicit for ‘Tango Del Fuego’ – in which the mood immediately changes to launch us into a classic Stelar dance track. So far, these songs really seem to be taking us on something of a journey. When the drop comes, it could be a bit bigger, both instrumentally and in terms of the mix – but it’s still a solid piece of music.
We remain with the classic Stelar vibes for ‘Pink Dragon’ – which has his signature all over it – more so than any other track on the album. There’s a strange development halfway through, when everything stops and it feels like the song is over – before jumping into what initially sounds like a different track. This eventually resolves, and the two sections come back together for an immensely dancey breakdown. After the excitement of the previous two tracks, we’re returned to a slower, more drifting sound for ‘Silver Line’, sounding a bit like a reprise of ‘Black Martin’. A nice interlude – with a fantastic double bass solo. ‘Red Cat’ then follows with more of the typical Stelar feeling; with its driving beat, this is actually one of the stronger tracks, and hopefully won’t be overlooked. There’s some really quite dark, clashing tones that work excellently here; and the trumpet line in the middle somewhat resembles a call to arms. Indeed, Stelar certainly has leagues of fans that will be drawn to attention in their own respective ways.
‘Crush & Crumble’ leaves no question as to how the song is going to play out – bringing in its outright energy from the get-go. With its Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman samples, this song reminds me wonderfully of just what it is I love about electro swing: listening to this, I can imagine what it was like for fans first listening to the actual swing in the 1930s. And then the final track is ‘The Voodoo Engine’ – and as one might expect, we’re brought back down to close the EP. It’s certainly felt more like a journey than either of the previous two, and not just because of the length. This song starts off sounding like nothing Stelar has ever produced before, with the intro being almost avant-garde. This sets the tone for a suitably epic finish once the beat kicks in, with underlying, sustained chords representing a synthwave-esque influence – perhaps he’s been listening to Faith In The Glitch! There’s such a cinematic quality to this one, and I can easily imagine it accompanying a superhero film or something like that.
Overall, this is a very satisfactory close to the Voodoo Sonic trilogy. Much longer than the previous two, and largely instrumental, this is also the best of the three releases. Where some of the tracks of the previous offerings were less than average, every track on this one is positive overall. Certainly not perfect, but definitely worth several more listens. The subtly implied narrative is also a nice touch, and makes me wonder whether Stelar might be thinking of a concept album for his next project. This is starting to happen more and more in electro swing, with the likes of Dutty Moonshine and the Sweet Life Society doing great things. Parov Stelar has received his fair share of criticism in recent years, and this is to be expected for an artist who’s achieved the type of success that he has – but whilst the cynics will criticise, there is no doubt that he’s still putting out consistent music that his fans will always love.
Written by Chris Swinglis Date: 2020-09-12