Stars That Move
Stars That Move

Creative center, guitarist and vocalist of veteran US stoner/doom act Starchild, Richard Bennett, scores a rousing success with his latest project, Stars That Move. Their self-titled debut from Stone Groove Records finds Bennett relinquishing the lead vocal duties to his wife Elisa Maria and adopting a trio format with her and Frank Sikes. It’s an ideal format for Bennett’s warm, fuzzed-over guitar musings and elongated melodies. Maria proves herself a more than capable vocalist and shines on a number of tracks, but Bennett’s riffing and lead work is the album’s guiding musical force.

“I Hold a Gaze” has a leaden tempo, but rather than pulverizing the listener with battering ram riffs, Bennett opts for an expansive approach incorporating slowly developing melodies with dreamy, reverb-soaked flourishes. Another impressive feature of the track is how Bennett and his cohorts resist the self-indulgences common in the genre by sparing us tacky musical theatrics or virtuoso trips. The steady swing driving “The Blue Prince” gives the second track an irresistible hook, but the complimentary vocal melody completes the picture. Things reach another level in the song’s second half with a compelling bridge and a dazzling display of control near the conclusion as Bennett draws amazing music from his guitar that acts as the song’s coda.

Another vivid riff and simpatico vocal dominates most of “From East to West”, but the extended instrumental break turns a spotlight on Bennett. He never overplays, but will wow many listeners with a concluding solo that crackles with genuine one take, bolt of inspiration energy. The band nods to one of their influences with a faithful, yet never imitative, cover of Black Sabbath’s “A National Acrobat”. The band’s trademark low-fi approach doesn’t diminish the song in any way, but there are some subtle changes. Bennett opts out of using a wah-wah pedal for any of the song’s lead work and, despite the low-fi approach, gives his playing a surprisingly cleaner bite than longtime admirers may expect. It’s interesting to hear how Bennett manipulates his effects level for dramatic impact and how those subtle sonic manipulations change the tenor of his tone.

“The Hidden Hand” feels like it needs a little more variation in the choruses, but there’s an argument that the song aims exactly for that sort of consistency. There’s a sense that Bennett has simplified and stripped things back here to focus near exclusively on a guitar workout. The solo multiples into counterpointing lead lines and their contrasting movements provide much of the song’s musical fireworks. The acoustic strains opening “Burning in Flames” are a pleasing stylistic shift from the album’s earlier efforts. It ranks as, perhaps, the album’s most progressive moment with its intensely theatrical presentation, discreet use of ambient musical elements, and keyboard color. It plays like a moment when Elisa Maria’s vocal promise reaches its full potential and imbues the song with an ethereal, stately magic. Stars That Move’s debut album is full of inspired guitar work, solid songwriting, few miscues, and there wasn’t another song better suited for the closing slot.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jason Hillenburg
August 27th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: glimmerfunnel

    There’s something about this that’s just right.


  2. Commented by: Jason Hillenburg

    It holds up under repeated listens too. Wish I could say that about a lot of things I hear.


  3. Commented by: Jay

    Right on Jason. Loved Starchild. This is soundin’ pretty good too. Good one!


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