Lionel Weets: Stellar Orchestra

Stellar Orchestra sees Belgium techno producer Lionel Weets following his scene-setting Alien Opera / Through the Universe single with an eighty-four-minute debut album. That Weets, who at one time released tribal techno under the MGMX alias, been heavily influenced by Detroit techno is evident the moment the album's opening track rolls out its irresistibly exuberant swing and Motor City strings. Packed with melodic and rhythmic detail, a typical Stellar Orchestra track is a multi-layered and intricately designed affair wherein beats chug with single-minded purpose and a bold panorama of vocals, strings, and synths swirls overhead—minimal it ain't.

“The Other Life” brings Weets' soulful house sound into clear focus with crisp hi-hats, chunky chords, and synths ushering in the cut and bubbly melodies the effervescent cherry on top. As forceful if rather more melancholic in tone is “Don't Follow Me, I Am Lost,” which derives its epic thrust from insistent house chords and equally insistent strings. The cuts that follow perpetuate the general headrush style of the openers, with each one powered by a metronomically thumping 4/4 pulse and packed with all manner of ornate detail, synthetic and otherwise. Certain cuts do stand out: the rollicking, high-energy swing of “Alien Opera” is well-nigh impossible to resist, as is “The Night Is Ours,” whose jacking techno-funk groove Weets greases up with organ soloing. In addition, the thunderous, low-end pulse driving “Rise of the Dragons” is a wonder to behold, and there's also no denying the jazzy house jubilation and electro-soul that give “Through the Universe” and “Different Ways to Paradise” such impact.

The quality level is high throughout, and the album can't be faulted on production grounds either. But with all but three of its eleven cuts falling in the seven-minute area, Stellar Orchestra is long and threatens to try the listener's patience when so much of it adheres to a similar tempo and stylistic approach. As good as it is, it's an album that would probably be more effective as a sixty-minute version featuring its eight best tracks.

May 2014