4AD followers will be aware of Swallow, a male/female duo who released an album called ‘Blow’ in 1992. It encapsulated the dream pop/shoegaze movement of the time with Louise Trehy’s gentle, whispered vocals a ghostly presence in their brief recording career. Since then, Trehy abandoned the music business altogether so the appearance of a new project called Strata Florida is something of a surprise. Here she is joined by veteran guitarist Pete Pavli and drummer Steve Kent.
‘Made Of Stars’ begins with anything but a whisper since it is ushered in by a sequence of murky guitars but then the reassuringly familiar vocals of Trehy soon make their presence known. As comebacks go, Trehy and her musical partners certainly don’t play it safe with some of the arrangements bordering on the abrasive side. However, the one constant is Trehy’s lighter than air tones which lend an angelic contrast to the devilment around her. Amongst such FX-saturated tunes, the relatively spare ‘Hang On’ emerges as a moment of warped beauty. Swallow earned expected comparisons with My Bloody Valentine during their time and choice cuts here such as ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Monster’ pull off that trick of finding blissful melody underneath walls of bruising, manicured noise. At other times, though, it’s difficult to detect the melody and one almost feels sympathy for Trehy on her quest to be heard above the cacophony.
In conclusion, ‘Made Of Stars’ requires a fair amount of hard work to appreciate its qualities. However, shoegazing fans are noted for their patience and by peeling away the layers of distortion, the album eventually represents an unexpected and equally welcome return for Trehy.
Swallow, My Bloody Valentine, Cranes