Strata Florida is a recording project centered around Louise Trehy. 22 years ago, she was one half of the 4AD dream pop band Swallow, whose star shone very brightly but also very briefly. Their one album Blow (1992) was one of my very favorite albums of the year. It remains one of my favorite albums not just of that year or of that decade, but one of my favorite albums ever. While this isn’t really about that, you should either dust off your copy of Blow, or buy one right away. In 1994, the band (which was also a romantic partnership) split after they left the 4AD roster. While Mike Mason (the other half of Swallow) remained in the music business as a video director, Trehy sort of dropped out of the scene entirely. She moved to Wales and led a quiet life for the next 18 or so years.
Last spring, I got an email out of the blue from Trehy letting me know that she was emerging from her hibernation. She said had been singing in a choir and really missed being in a band. She tried working with a few different guitar players, but things weren’t working out. Then she found this guy named Pete Pavli, who is a classically trained cellist and violist. He was also a frequent collaborator with former Hawkwind member Robert Calvert. Together, Pavli and Calvert were in a couple of early 80s avant-garde bands. One of the more bizarre Pavli/Calvert collaborations was a 1981 stage play called “The Kid From Silicon Gulch: An electronic musical for the cybernetic age”. It had private detectives, murderous computers, bad avantgarde “futuristic” music that was “sung” by the aforementioned murderous computer. Everything. Anyway, in the present day, Trehy found this guy Pavli, who had also been out of the music business for a long time. When they started working together, they were both sort of secretive about it. She was saying that she was working with “a viola player”, and he was saying “I am currently working with a talented female singer/songwriter who has sworn me to secrecy…”.
When I got that email from Trehy, she had three songs that were in demo mode. I featured one of those demos almost exactly a year ago. At the time, she wasn’t really planning on releasing an album. Maybe an EP, but more than anything, she just wanted to get back to creating music. But things happened. She ended up signing on with Saint Marie Records, which is one of my favorite labels. She named her new project Strata Florida, which is Latin for “Valley of Flowers”. It’s also the (English) name of a historically significant 12th century abbey in midwest Wales. The Welsh name for the abbey is Ystrad Fflur. And that brings us up to date.
Today, finally, is the release date for the first Strata Florida album Made of Stars, and this is one of my favorite songs from the album:
“Take Me Out” by Strata Florida
There’s a lot of tremolo and flanger on this song. It’s a common thread running through the album. Not necessarily in a way that makes the songs sound same-ish. Just that they sound like they belong together. That’s one of the things that I really love about this album. It sounds like an album rather than a collection of songs that were just piled together. One song flows into the next, and it’s very much on purpose. Trehy listened to the Cocteau Twins’ masterpiece Treasure a bunch of times while she was putting her album together. What she was paying specific attention to was the way Treasure uses the fades and the spaces between the songs as connective tissue. She was looking to accomplish the same thing with Made of Stars, and I think she has.
Trehy’s nearly whispered angelic vocals are again the highlight of the thing. There’s something comforting and mysterious and, of course, sexy about that technique. That school of Bilinda Butcher/Rachel Goswell fame.
As good as each of the songs is, I strongly suggest listening to the whole album in one sitting. Listen on big speakers through a proper stereo setup. Listen on a good set of headphones. Whatever. Just listen to the whole thing. And not through your laptop speakers or a cheap set of earbuds.
While I was certainly anticipating the album very much, I knew that sometimes this leads to disappointment. I got an advance copy of Made of Stars a couple of weeks ago, and I’m really happy with the album. I’ve just been waiting for the rest of the world to finally be able to get their ears on it.