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Stellar OM Source - Joy One Mile

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Artist: Stellar OM Source

Album: Joy One Mile

Label: Rvng Intl.

Review date: Aug. 13, 2013

What is it that makes Stellar OM Source’s Joy One Mile so good? Released earlier this summer, we’ve had enough time as listeners now to dissect what the special component is that sets it apart from the French producer’s earlier releases. It’s generally agreed in press and reviews that Joy One Mile is the turning of a corner (though whether or not it’s fully turned is still a matter of debate) and that the secret to its success is Christelle Gualdi’s ability to put “distance” between herself and her music, aided by the chance purchase of a Roland TB-303.

That explanation is reductive, though. For one thing, Gualdi was already moving beyond the hazy New Age of her early self-released albums that garnered comparisons to Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never. The 303 may have been the missing piece of equipment that connected the dots from her kosmische origins to the early Chicago and acid house that she now explores, but Gualdi had already purchased it by 2010. You could tell in her live shows and recent releases (the “Clarity” 7”, “Image Over Image” 12”, and “Yesterday is Karma” Juno podcast last November) that the transformation was underway.

For another, we don’t have the “baroque” early versions of these tracks for comparison – it’s impossible to know what exactly Kassem Mosse’s Gunnar Wendel was presented with when Gualdi finally decided to turn over mixing duties and arrangements to the German on a whim; therefore, it’s impossible to know the distance between Gualdi’s “final” version and Wendel’s that was eventually released. A charming story of trust that ends with Gunnar skeletonizing most of these songs and capping off the tracklist with an “Elite Excel” remix of his own, Gualdi’s bold decision is deceptive because you never know for sure when you’re hearing the presence of Kassem Mosse and when you’re hearing the absence of Stellar OM Source. Not that you were worried, but Wendel’s mix works predictable wonders in the anxious synth threading through album opener “Polarity” and the lush chords of “Fascination.”

The unifying theme of Joy One Mile to me that makes this a major release for Stellar OM Source isn’t Kassem Mosse, or a cheap synth, or more general reference points like jazz fusion and Jean-Jacques Beineix and architecture. What makes Joy One Mile so compelling is the unprecedented level of comfort Christelle Gualdi has exhibited in its creation.

Some of these songs have been kicking around in one form or another for two years; by honing their structure for that long and building them to completion, only to entrust revisions to a stranger, speaks more to her equanimity than anything else. That she afforded herself the distance and self-control of leaving their finalization in someone else’s hands is an extension of that comfort, and it’s what makes listening to Joy One Mile so easy. She’s never been better because she’s never been more confident.

By Patrick Masterson

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