The “Spacegeist” album by Portland’s neo-shoegaze, dreamfolk act Starover Blue has been a long time coming. The brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Kendall Sallay and keyboardist/guitarist Dirk Milotz, it began as a sci-fi concept (“The Labyrinth Suite E.P., 2013), then bled forth into a single (“Spacegeist,” 2015); and now comes to fruition in the “Spacegeist” record, the band’s first full-length release.
Previously, I wrote about “Spacegeist,” the single:
“Spacegeist” pushes the ethos further, delving more into the act’s pop sensibilities, mixing musical elation with a melancholia the way that only Starover Blue can. Aptly titled, “Spacegeist” plays on the German word for “ghost,” and speaks for itself. Keyboards, rhythm and chilling vocals brace the listener for atmospheric splendor.
Lead singer Kendall Sallay describes the track as such. “ . . . the song alludes to a guiding presence that appears throughout the rest of the album.”
Heigh ho, I speak a bit of German. But enough about me. The point is, everything I admired about the single applies to the newly released album.
If anything, the “Spacegeist” record completes the space-themed journey which began three years ago with “The Labyrinth Suite”; and with 16 tracks, there’s plenty to see along the way. “Spacegeist” is notable for its focus on synthetic sound, building sonic walls around the world that Sallay and Milotz are creating, and aptly inviting us along for the ride.
The album’s opener, the overture and title track, establishes an up-tempo, major chord progression that’s as euphoric as it is atmospheric. Sallay’s vocals resemble Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins fame–so much that I asked her if the 80s act had been an influence. Sallay told me she hadn’t actually heard the Cocteau Twins until after she’d recorded these songs. I was immediately tripped out by this. What goes around comes around, I guess.
But moving on. The next track, “Summer Snow,” continues to mesmerize with an indelibly catchy main riff. “Mechropolis” takes darkness to a pounding, gorgeous, slow burn intensity. “Into the Labyrinth” continues the established mood, with more haunting lyricism and sparse guitar breakdowns. (Admittedly, this is where the act delves into prog-rock territory.) “Saturnine” and “Deus Ex Machinas” are rich in emotionalism, switching between driving and pensive slowness. The result is almost meditative.
“Old Believer,” “Solar,” “Twelve Tides” and “Marina” take a balladeering stance, brushing up against Jesse Sykes territory with an almost spooky Americana flavor. “The Last Rose” has an autumnal feel, holding an optimistic, major-chord appeal that forgoes the paranoid, dystopianism for pure melody. “A Flower in Space” lives up to its name–delicate, lovely, slow, even, with tempo changes reestablishing Starover Blue’s shoegaze chops. Another instrumental concludes the set, grounding the otherwise ethereal album.
The delay of Starover Blue’s “Spacegeist” full-length was well worth the wait, providing an evocative, gorgeous effort that slaloms through the best moments of shoegaze. Excellent in its deliberation, “Spacegeist” gives Fraser and company a run for their money.