Modern Stars – Termination

Modern Stars – Termination
Clostridium Record / Little Cloud Records / Sister 9 Recordings
Release Date: 01/03/24
Running Time: 34:03
Review by Dark Juan
8/10

Crow Cottage is currently a plague house. Mrs Dark Juan and I are both hunched, shivering under blankets, and coughing like we are in the last stages of TB, and praying for deliverance in the form of Doxycycline and all the steroids. The Smellhounds are unaccountably behaving themselves currently though, so there’s some small mercy at play. 

However, Dark Juan has taken several days off from wrangling recalcitrant young people, mainly because this is the second chest infection he has had in a few months and also because there comes a point, no matter how diligent you are in any line of work, where you need a fucking break. This was going to be in the form of the venerable camper van Dark Juan had purchased recently going on its maiden sojourn. That has gone for a burton because Dark Juan simply does not have the strength currently to wrest the unassisted steering around. This, though, does mean that the readership of Ever-Metal.com are in for a treat because I actually have time to spam you all with reviews, this being first of probably quite a lot because Dark Juan has to catch up with the review machine that is Oli Gonzalez, who frankly made Dark Juan look like a bit of chump by sheer high-quality output in 2023 and early 2024. This cannot be allowed to continue.

It is in this combative spirit, then, that Dark Juan has taken the diesel-fuelled, matt black Platter of Splatter™ from the garage it lives in and has given it a good kick in the guts to get it running. Rotating upon it is “Termination” by Modern Stars, being an Italian Heavy Psych/ Drone/ Krautrock 4-piece from Rome. This album is apparently inspired by, “…The halting problem in computer theory. In

computability theory, the halting problem is the problem of determining, from a description of

an arbitrary computer program and an input, whether the program will finish running or

continue to run forever. The halting problem is undecidable, meaning that no general

algorithm exists that solves the halting problem for all possible program input pairs. This is

true also for human life, as it goes up and down and one can’t program it, because simply

you cannot predict the future, and even if we could there are so many variables that can

easily fuck up any sort of forecast.”

Indeed. It is with this in mind that we plunge into the music. 

Except plunge is entirely the wrong metaphor for what we are to do with the music of Modern Stars. We approach the music in a sideways, crabbing fashion and let it wash over us. The vocals are spare and dripping with bass, echo and reverb in the case of Andrea Merolle, and bell-like, clear and angelic in the case of Barbara Margani. These two styles complement each other perfectly on the Swans/ Jesus and Mary Chain/ Krautrock chimera that is ‘Bartleby’, a song that is very reminiscent of the repetitive nature of Electro-Punk godfathers Suicide for the first three minutes, all achingly slow Drone and rumbling bass vocal until chiming, shiny musical lines kick in and the achingly human element of the female vocal and an incongruously cheery melody finishes off the song.

The record starts with ‘If/Then’ and ‘Nowhere’, two pieces that complement each other as they tell the story of a man without faith in the Computer Age who feels utterly lost. Both of these pieces are taut, stress-inducing music, all painfully slow Chapterhouse Shoegaze combined with the introspection of Goth Rock and yet having a starry, dreamlike quality – like the daydreams the functionaries in massive offices have in their grey, featureless cubicles. They while the hours away in fantasies that depress as much as comfort them – dreaming of running away to Benidorm, for example, or lusting half-heartedly after the Falkland Island Princess of the office (this being a military term for the most attractive female in the area – not necessarily that attractive, but the best that’s there and therefore the focus of the tawdry. The term also fits for the men in the office who are bland but not pig ugly. Dark Juan is nothing if he is not inclusive) and imagining unsatisfying, half-drunk sex after wine and pizza in a second-rate restaurant in an equally dreary, grey British town centre, surrounded by endless charity shops all selling the same Jeffrey Deaver and Lee Child books, a considerable supply of Richard Clayderman and musical “classic” CD compilations and a seemingly limitless inventory of Littlewoods and Grattan catalogue cut-glass wine glasses from the 1980s, and the equally ubiquitous dun-brown ties and sports jackets. Then, sloppy, inexpert, ersatz-passionate  kisses in the back of a taxi on the way to a soulless, cheap hotel room where they slake their pathetically small and insipid desires on each other’s painfully average, slightly out of shape bodies, M&S underwear and dark socks and tan pantyhose in a bundle on the floor being their only true act of rebellion as they have taken the time to neatly fold their outer clothes on the sideboard before mingling their cheap perfume and aftershave, her leaving Superdrug lipstick marks on his pale flesh…

Yes, these are the images that the music of Modern Stars conjures in the over-caffeinated imagination of Dark Juan. I have always been of the opinion that music has to be able to stimulate the imagination in order to be truly excellent, and this is something that Modern Stars do in spades… Their Droning, insistent, backrooms-fluorescent light-buzzing music draws you into a world of tiny, intricate nuance, overlaid with a Psychedelic longing for sunlight and outside as you drag in painfully slow, air-conditioned breaths, longing for escape from in front of your flickering screen when an errant shaft of sunlight breaks through the cloud and shines across your endless office having penetrated the tinted glass of the soulless edifice of glass and concrete you toil in…

It is a masterfully crafted album, is “Termination”. However, it is likely to be of limited interest to the die-hard fan of Metal, as it moves slowly and languidly, tendrils of fog across low-lying land and being a reminder of just how slowly a minute can pass when you have nothing to stimulate your interest, as opposed to slamming a furious fist into the hair and pledging rebellion. However, if you wish to listen to slow-burning, thoughtful, POWERFUL music then Modern Stars are for you.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (il sistema brevettato di classificazione degli schizzi di sangue di Dark Juan, per i miei stimati e appassionati amici italiani!) awards Modern Stars 8/10 for an excellent, deep diving into the human psyche record. However, marks were deducted because the music skirts around Metal without actually touching it, and the torturously slow compositions also reduce interest for the less intrepid listener. Dark Juan is very much a fan, though!

TRACKLISTING:
01. If/Then
02. Fields of Nowhere
03. Confession
04. Bartleby
05. Organization
06. Be Pure
07. Coming Down

LINE-UP:
Andrea Merolle – Electronics, guitars and vocals
Barbara Margani – Vocals
Andrea Sperduti – Drums
Mario Bruni – Bass

LINKS:

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