By Kellan Botha |
If music was wearable, hipsters the world over would be dressed top to toe in Parov Stelar. Blending 1920’s Flapper-era Jazz and Swing music with electronically synthesized beats and overlays, this new genre perfectly epitomises the modern sensibilities and old-school fashion sense of the traditional hipster.
However, the genre of electro-swing has done the unthinkable in recent years by growing to be so popular and supported that many hipsters certainly now shun it. The genre has gone mainstream, and it is in this stream where I came across it.
Now, before we go any further I should add that I am only a light-hearted fan of any musical genre. What matters to me is how much I enjoy a song, rather than a whole album. I have no favourite artist, as each artist tends to only have a few songs or titles that appeal to me. That said, I am mad about electro-swing, and in particular some of the more lyrical works by Caravan Palace.
Parov Stelar, born Marcus Füreder, is an Austrian DJ who rose to prominence earlier this decade for his revolutionary mixing of the genres of traditional swing and modern house and electro-music. His following grew steadily and by 2009 he and his music were blaring in clubs and Bacardi commercials all around the world!
In 2013 he released his latest album, The Invisible Girl. The first song of the album, of the same name, is nearly superb, with the jazzy underlays making you want to bob your head back and forth and bounce up and down to the sound of cellos and brass.
As you get into it further, your mind transforms the world around you into a psychedelic, jagged-edged Roberto Matta painting, full of colours and shapes you never dreamed could exist.
Then, sadly, you get about two-thirds of the way through and the repetitive tune and lack of any kind of progression starts to get somewhat tiresome. Your Roberto Matta masterpiece becomes a toddler’s scribble on a wall, and you find yourself, well, bored. Granted this music is meant for clubs, to be danced to endlessly on a cheap-snack and alcohol fuelled rampage through the flashing lasers and lights, but I could not help but switch songs before the end of The Invisible Girl.
The other songs in the album are much the same- Energetic, upbeat, and generally fun to listen to, but repetitive. What I found most disappointing is the lack of any real variety in the songs, with each one following a similar pattern and style to the last. Evidently this album is meant to be danced to, not listened to, or else I don’t believe Stelar would have reached this level of global fame.
There are, however, some of Stelar’s earlier works, mostly from his 2009 album, Coco, which I can find no fault in. In particular, The Mojo Radio Gang and Catgroove. The Mojo Radio Gang evokes a vague sadness (which I am told means “happy for deep people”) despite its energy and bouncy vibe, but Catgroove is by far my favourite, bringing to mind movies like Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, as well as other stories of the diesel-punk genre. Listening to this piece, you might imagine yourself soaring over Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with the rasps and roars of massive machines bleeding through the paradisal-façade right before the two minute mark.
Parov Stelar is widely regarded as the founder of the electro-swing genre, and while I may not be fully enamoured with many of his works, those that I like, I love beyond compare. Stelar successfully fused two styles of music separated by nearly eight decades of social and political change, and this clash of past and present makes the retro fanatic in me want to break into dance.
All in all I give Stelar three and a half glasses of prohibition-era moonshine out of five. Whether the half-glass is half empty or half full depends on how you feel about the genre.