Release Date: 16th May 2014
Stems are a 3 piece band from Huddersfield creating music that in their own words is ‘art rock embellished with strings, cinematic and full of sweeping darkness’. A bold statement to make about your music but something that after listening to the album I can confirm is very true.
Echoing sounds and high pitched vocals build up in a choir like fashion through the short 58 second ‘Intro’ taking us into first track ‘Anahata’ where wavering strings, wobbling cymbals and softly strummed guitar greet us softly. A strong deep drum and beautiful violins carry us through this track, it’s calming and beautiful full of sparse sounds that somehow create a real depth of emotion though no words are sung or spoken.
Dramatic, threatening violins build up over the top of a commanding beat that remains soft enough to not overshadow the deep bass and intricately played guitar of ‘Connery’. This one completely lives up to that cinematic tag and you could easily see this sound tracking a tense moment in a fantasy film. Utterly wonderful.
Deep, almost bowing violin that adds a tinge of the oriental is juxtaposed again soaring violin sounds, both take centre stage throughout ‘Reverence’ adding an interesting edge to the basic guitar that sits in the background. While ‘Shadows’ is more uptempo with chords that feel like they are jumping around the track.
‘Unravelling’ is a masterpiece all of its own from the soft violin that starts taking us to a building guitar line that adds a rock edge. Violin and guitar build up mimicking each other before crashing cymbals, drawn out commanding violin, backing vocals and a fuzzy riff that Muse would be proud of ends this leaving you astounded at what you’ve just heard.
Gently strummed guitar builds a good foundation for ‘Summa’ before fast paced dual violins come in played one after the other in quick succession creating a musical round in the fullest sense that builds into a wall of sound that subsides into ‘Outro’ and its sweeping violin sounds. We finish the album though on a strings version of ‘Anahata’ which gives full attention to the gorgeous sounds that violins can create from the beautifully soft and atmospheric moments to the harsher, deeper, more dramatic sounds.
I’m not usually one for instrumental albums as I tend to lose interest halfway through but with this album I couldn’t help but sit back and listen to it completely, taking everything in from the depth and richness of the music they’ve made to the movie-esque soundscapes created by such minimal instrumentation. ‘Polemics’ truly is a stunning and breath-taking listen.