Steaua de Mare

Fast forwarding to the present, its always interesting to see how that spirit of ingenuity and experimentation applies for current bands. In Romania there are bands like the one I’ll highlight today, Steaua de Mare (Big Star), that recognize the importance of looking into one’s own lineage to pull up different directions and grooves that have yet to be developed. Taking their name from a famous Romanian beach resort facing the Black Sea, this group from Bucharest, combines samplers, drum machines, electric bass and synths, with horns and its mesmerizing lead violin to create a mind melting mix of Prog, disco, rock, and dub, with generally frowned up genres like Manele/Romanian Chalga which are viewed as trashy styles of music in their own native country. Much like their namesake which came alive in the 80s post-Romania, they’re trying to upend what they can get away with as globalization sneaks tons of new outside influences back in.

Steaua de Mare album cover.

“Babadag” from their brilliant, self-titled, 2013 release, makes the case of the importance for a new kind of Orientalism. This easterly/inwardly turn, tries to negate the rampant racism that many Eastern European countries have, against Gypsy/Romany creations such as their music or arabic tempos, by creating a bomb-ass track that is equal parts danceable, melancholy, psychedelic, and avantgarde. Listening to this track, which cycles through a rhythm track of various sampled and created sounds, played in obvious “Oriental” ways, as the glorious violin melody, keeps getting surrounded by sonically expanding synths trying to meet it halfway, one can’t help but feel there’s an entirely new style at play.

This style is one that makes its groove ultra-intriguing. The musical stresses are moving past simply “rocking” out as a means to make a statement but are there instead looking for new sonic experiences through deeper grooves that might move it somewhere someone else hadn’t thought of exploring. Its not trying to say “be anti-Western” but trying to put the importance of building from your own past to predict some kind of future. Is it any wonder, that when Rodion recently toured again he chose this band to back him up? He must have seen something of himself in them…

Bonus track time, two killers live performances one of “Elisabeta”…

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and the Transylvanian psych rock dance groove of “Bvlgaria”.

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