Stellar OM Source’s new album, Joy One Mile, marks a certain and spirited departure into worlds unknown. A faithful leap into the infinite beat, Joy One Mile is the most forward-reaching effort by Stellar OM Source yet.
Stellar OM Source originated from Christelle Gualdi’s desire to unhinge from her academic musical upbringing. A double bassist in the Konigin Katharina Stift Schulorchester and a student of music theory at Université Paris VIII, Gualdi completed her studies in electro-acoustic composition at the Conservatoire de Paris after earning an architecture degree.
The process of Gualdi’s “unlearning” began in experimental ensemble settings, and it became more recognizable as she moved toward solo performance. Stellar OM Source’s name is fittingly inspired in part by the pathway to higher consciousness and cosmos via one’s own voice.
Gualdi was also inspired by – and also an integral member of – the late aughts DIY synthesizer community. Alongside Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds and James Ferraro, Stellar OM Source’s stream of self-released CDRs defined a zeitgeist of artists trending away from their noisy roots via polyphonic escapism.
Based many miles away from her US counterparts in The Hague, South Holland, Gualdi received a prophetic sign in 2010 when a regional eBay seller offered her a mint Roland TB-303 for a mere €25 – or $33. The instantly identifiable sounds of the analog bass synthesizer began appearing in Gualdi’s studio and live practices. More importantly, the pattern possibilities propelled Stellar OM Source toward its future foundation – a planet still floating in the synth universe, but orbiting light years away on a rhythmically revolving axis.
Halfway through 2012, Gualdi settled into record seven of twelve songs played intensely over a year of gigging throughout Europe. Using performance as her primary production technique, Gualdi tracked each of the songs live and without overdubs, improvised limitations or consequence.
By virtue of her many aspirations and the array of hardware that Gualdi brought to the table, Joy One Mile took form in chaos. Where this disorder might cripple others, Gualdi’s response was energetically and emotionally charged. While recording, each corner of Joy One Mile became draped in dramatic ornamentation, the mood rarely varying from frantic to frenetic.
The freedom from form that Gualdi sought with Joy One Mile was ultimately obtained, but the severe surge of the finished recordings left her over stimulated. Striking a dialogue with Gunnar Wendel (aka Kassem Mosse), Gualdi realized an objective opinion and arrangement know how would allow clarity and an even greater freedom — that from her own music. Confident the tracks stood strong, Gualdi gave little guidance to Wendel, relying instead on their mutual sonic and structural appreciations to steer the end goal.
From the vantage point of the finish line, Joy One Mile bares no straight club tracks, but it depends upon a percussive propulsion nevertheless. The singularity of Gualdi’s compositions, when pulled back and recalibrated even slightly, resemble early era Warp Records, and, by that admission, the wayward electro of early-90s Detroit. The abstractions in Gualdi’s programming and mutant melodies is what keeps Joy One Mile perfectly relegated to outsider status, akin to the primitive techno of Esplendor Geometrico and Chris & Cosey.
“Sometimes you feel that you’re getting really close to what being alive means, be it learning about distant planets or being grounded by life’s occasionally heavy burden,” notes Gualdi. “Joy One Mile grew from the consciousness of such moments. When I listen to it, I see myself walking through a pouring rain at night with headphones on, embracing both the misery and ecstasy.”