Unknown Spins | She Travels The Spaceways: An Interview with Stellar Om Source
New in Ceasefire, Unknown Spins - Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 11:24 - 1 Comment
Stellar Om Source’s Christine Gualdi “I love working alone and going deep within the abstraction of sounds, but for sure I’m never lonely while making music!” (Photo: Raphael Rehbach)
While the heterogeneity of the current crop of synth voyagers may often make one want to lift the needle and reach for ‘Aguirre’ instead, Stellar Om Source, aka Christelle Gualdi, remains a consistently fascinating performer. While the name and aspects of the sound indicate a definite kosmiche influence, Stellar Om Source injects her astral navigations with a warmth derived from the rhythmic pull of the dancefloor, particularly on more recent releases.
Since her first album, in 2008, Gualdi’s work – mostly self-released, but also turning up on such influential labels as Ruralfaune and Olde English Spelling Bee – has piloted a unique course that calls to mind Alice Coltrane and even the more meditative moments of Sun Ra as much as the hypnagogic touchstones of Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, and the faded VHS aesthetic that marks some of Stellar Om Source’s video pieces.
Stellar Om Source is very much a solo project, in which Gualdi not only plays alone but is also solely responsible for her albums’ artwork, and often their distribution too. Indeed, many of Stellar Om Source’s track and album titles – ‘Crusader,’ ‘The Sky Pilot,’ ‘Ocean Woman’ – evoke the image of a lonely traveller in the void, a sense reinforced by the cavernous scale of the music.
When I asked her about this intensely individual dimension to her work, Gualdi said: ‘I think all music and art is about evoking a personal space. I love working alone and going deep within the abstraction of sounds, but for sure I’m never lonely while making music! For me it’s about expansion and expanding yourself and sharing that with others.’
It’s worth remembering here that the imagery of the lone pioneer is by no means unique to the traditions of experimental or kosmiche music, but is also a motif prevalent in the afrofuturism of Drexciya’s deep sea dwellers, or Afrika Bambaataa’s quest for the perfect beat. Gualdi cites the latter in particular as an inspiration, ‘who followed his own path, and pushed the limits of what we had heard.’
Stellar Om Source’s more recent music certainly displays the influence of early electro and techno; last year’s ‘Clarity’ 7”, released on the Japanese label Big Love Records, pulses with rippling arpeggios eerily reminiscent of Aphex Twin’s early side-project GAK. ‘I value the Techno genre, as it’s so wide, and to me it just refers to Technology. Human beings love technology. Experimenting with technology, it’s also a form of introspection.’
The human component of this man-machine lineage is also reflected in Gualdi’s interest in DJing and club spaces: ‘dance music is very communal, which is important for me, and there’s also a sense of seduction.’ The appeal of the dance floor is also something that comes across strongly in her stunning version of Harald Grosskopf’s classic ‘1847 – Earth,’ released on the ‘Re-Synthesist’ LP last year, which takes the original’s lush moog atmospheres on a journey towards full-on House territory.
‘I was playing a lot with typical house chords at the time of this remix. They were just in my head all the time, as chords more than being genre-bound. Harald Grosskopf ‘Synthesist’ is a very influential record for me, and I was so glad to participate in the remix series that RVNG organized. I loved so many things about that record, the percussion, how it was recorded, the cover, so many musical aspects of it. 1847 – Earth is so rhythmic and almost techno as well.’
That said, it seems we’re unlikely to hear too many more Stellar Om Source remixes in the near future; ‘I don’t really find the right state of mind to work on remixes, so I don’t really do it. There are a lot of bad remixes which are total failures, and that’s beautiful too!’
This isn’t to say that Gualdi intends to keep the Stellar Om Source aesthetic sealed off from outside contact forever, though, particularly in the visual field. ‘I decided to start working with other designers. I’m into the collaboration idea. I want to meet the other interpretation that someone else would have visually of my music.’
The beautiful art of prior Stellar Om Source releases stands amongst the high water marks of the hypnagogic aesthetic, all washed-out neon and Geocities-era rendering. It remains to be seen how others will interprest Gualdi’s new, beat-driven directions – there’s a new 12” from respected Dutch electronic label Rush Hour forthcoming shortly, and a full-length expected in the autumn – but she herself is open to all possibilities:
‘I’m following an inner vibe without any limitations. It’s not planned, I just follow my own current, stay open for things to happen and welcome them.’