Since forming in 2008, Starring has honed the art of sublime textures that unite symphonic euphoria with machine-like repetitions and subversively sweet lullabies. Unhinged, introspective, but also weirdly unpredictable, the music arrives like a nutty and cosmic musical ice cream sundae. Now joining the roster of Brooklyn’s Northern Spy, Starring releases ABCDEFG-HIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ: a creative bouquet that integrates fastidious studio experimentation with elements of the band’s hot-blooded and earsplitting performances in the musty corners of Brooklyn’s DIY rock scene.
In 2011, these long-time friends holed up in Brooklyn’s St. Cecilia’s Church with producer Matt Mehlan (of Skeletons) to write and record this album, aiming at something sculptural and deliberate that sought to integrate the lyrical and the experimental. New ideas came fast and furious as all five members explored musical territory untouched by any of the band’s other creative outlets (Pterodactyl, Skeletons, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, Talibam!, Frankie Rose, the Fancy, and lots of more experimental work), and infused the record with sublimated repressions and newly-tapped potentials.
Like its unwieldy, expansive title, ABCDEFG-HIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ is a sleepy-psycho explosion of trap doors and wild juxtapositions that combines razor sharp minimalism with dreamy poetry. It captures elements of the frenetic energy of the band’s live show, but here it is overlain with a new palate of synthesizers, delay effects, drum processing, aux percussion, and vocals that create delicate, but sometimes radical juxtapositions. Over the course of the album’s six cuts, choruses soar at monstrous heights framed by mechanical and occult trances. Dead jazz turns up with fuzzy 8-bit solos, whistling synths pipe beneath ghostly choral arrangements, viola lines in microtonal modes swoop into ornamented curls and loops, and singer Clara Hunter’s girlish vocals whisper the record’s secrets with surreal, woozy melodies.
Dubbed “sparkle-prog” by the band, ABCDEFG-HIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ reflects an aesthetic that recalls the classic sounds of European prog rock (Magma, Faust, Neu!), the unhinged grit of 1970’s New York no wave artists like Suicide, the earliest cuts from minimalists like Terry Riley and Philip Glass, and even a dose of post-rock’s strung-out improvisations.