Selcouth apparently is an adjective, which means strange, unusual and wondrous. The band, which is a collective of musicians from Finland, France, Spain, Russia and Argentina, most certainly got their name right.
What I sensed here was an avant-garde artistic project. That description possibly equates to being weird, which “Heart is the Star of Chaos” is, but in a good way. I don’t think anyone could claim that this is set in reality. It’s drifty, dreamy, hippie even. The 1970s are here. Musically it’s eclectic. Predominantly dark and gothic, tracks like “Nightspirit” are gently scary. The dark patterns add menace to the weirdness, and are supplemented with more than an injection of jazz. The strange tonalities of “Strange Before the Calm” are matched with spaced out vocals. In fact the main vocalist has a strong resemblance to David Bowie, who I suspect might have approved of the creativity behind these dark odes. Female vocals accompany the dreamily drifting “Gaia”. It has a nice rhythm but we don’t just drift along a cloud as this piece is moody and at one point darkly expansive. The drum has an element of trip hop about it, which seems all the rage. “Querencia” seemed a case of unfinished business as although it’s a colourful and technically proficient piece of rock, it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. The strength of this album is the ability to linger, ingest, infuse and wonder. I certainly wondered when listening “Of Hopes and Lost Treasures”. After a dreamy opening, the knives are out and it becomes a musical and mental deconstruction programme. This is what the word avant-garde was invented for. Not normal. Interesting. I hesitate to call this insanity because it’s all been carefully constructed. “Below Hope” continues the trend of surpassing boundaries. With the distortion, and grotesque sounds and vocals, it’s like a theatrical horror show. I sense a similarity with Arcturus and in some of the atmospheres and in the vocal range with Polish band Asgaard. The rhythms are rarely recurrent but appropriate to the moment, so although not heavy, it’s extreme in its way. I come back to the idea of it being dark and gothic. “Sunless Weather” is as lacking in cheer as its title suggests. It creeps and crawls like a slug on a path. Much use is made of sound effects, especially in the vocals, which are bizarre enough to start with. “Sunless Weather” comes to an abrupt end, but it’s just a signal for more strangeness as a jazz and bass line provides a backdrop for “Flying Canopies”. The agonised vocals prolong the nightmare, supported by the chaotic extremity of the instrumental patterns. By comparison “Rusticus” is normal, but then I suppose one of the achievements of this album is that my parameters of normality had shifted during its course. The sweet-sounding chorus is still menacing, as it is wrapped in ever dark tones, and even the angelic voice and fairground sounds we hear at the end convey little comfort.
There’s no doubt that “Heart is the Star of Chaos” is a carefully conceived work. Both instrumentally and vocally it defies normal patterns and captures an artistic world well beyond everyday norms. Interesting as it is, it’s a difficult listen, to the point almost where the difficulty outweighs the atmosphere, and I cannot claim that it’s easy to be comfortable with this album.
(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)