Stellar OM Source





In order to describe the music of Dutch act Stellar OM Source aka Christelle Gualdi, I need to use italics as the best way to stress the gap in the market niche she has filled with each and every release. One could say that every Stellar OM Source release is retro. Or better still, one could say that every Stellar OM release is retro. A slight shift in emphasis enhances the importance of Gualdi‘s work, for her music paints an alternate reality. It is as if the 80‘s never vanished, with acts and musicians like 808 State, Vangelis or The Art of Noise and acid-house festivals like 1988's Second Summer Of Love still intact, without any Eurodance intrusion of the 90‘s. If the music of Stellar OM Source only resembled the spirit of the 80‘s, no one would make such a fuzz about it, as trends and subgenres always reappear in several forms all the time. But no, her music lives the Lo-Fi spirit with its oscillating synth pads, pumping Roland drum computers and cyberspace affection. Exises, a 7-track EP self-released by Gualdi on CD and now only available as digital download on iTunes and the likes, fits right in and doesn‘t change the formula. It is, in one short compound, hyper-analogue. The cover artwork makes things clear on each release: 80‘s computer graphics right out of the halcyon days of afternoons in front of the C64, music videos with dolphins and birds in space, the MTV Amp program or the Max Headroom series. Not every song can be counted as an Ambient piece, but the powerfully swirling melodies and background pads at least resemble this genre. Despite the omnipresence of analogue soundscapes, this isn‘t exactly a warm or cozy album, as several lurching synths and quick tone shifts beg for the listener‘s attention and create a bustling liveliness. Gualdi is always on the edge of Rave and New Age without crossing these lines or offering a distasteful counterfeit, as I will examine below.


Team X starts with a dark synth pad and brightly oscillating synths of all kinds. All layers move fast and hectically. Indeed, the New Age flavor is clearly audible, as the quirky synths transport the excitement of new audio equipment and the dawning times of adventurous incidents in cyberspace. You think this is nonsense? Probably, but since the setup recalls past decades of futuristic thinking both via artwork and track titles, the mindset of the listener really adjusts and starts to think retro. It happens to me, at least. Anyway, Team X is energetic, but still an Ambient song. While Diagrams is featuring muffled bass drums and an oscillating synth that resembles an electric guitar and can otherwise be called a surf song for robots, When Re-Eternize? goes back to the formula of Team X, with swooshing surround synths and a dark cyber crime pad that adds a dry shiftiness to the crystalline structure. Process Vision doesn‘t just sound electronic, but also electric, with warbled high voltage synth formations and an accompanying bassline that adds depth, but no deepness to this Ambient piece, which relies once more on that certain structure already featured in Team X and When Re-Eternize?. The Last Transparent Dome is built upon a dominant 4/4 beat, reverberated shakers and shimmering synth loops that oscillate between fuzziness and lucidness and remain in the background, quite a change and a singular exception on Exises. Your New Body starts in medias res and is a euphoric, encapsulating analogue dreamscape with foggy hisses and static noises added near its end. The 3-second main loop works very well and is of hypnotic, overarching quality. The final track, Patterns, features the formula of multilayered, quickly paced synths one last time, now with extra added psychedelically polymorphic flute layers and rhapsodical square leads that are skillfully warped during the end when everything fades out and only the last bright note of the square lead dies away.


Since all releases by Stellar OM Source are keen of both New Age and the beginning phase of early 80‘s Synth Pop experiments, you either like them or despise them. However, I believe that there is a little region in-between those antagonisms. Historically, the music presented in Exises is timeless because it sounds purposely dated. What sounds like a contradiction is in fact a well thought-out strategy: since New Age music has always been belittled in the 80‘s and only in rare cases entered the Synth Pop loaded charts, the music of Stellar OM Source pinpoints the twist of music history. Christelle Gualdi‘s music sounds exactly like the New Age music back then – but is much more celebrated now. Suddenly, everyone seems to get the message and knows that music like this existed some time in the past, forlorn in the realms of synthesizer sounds. So if anyone hopes for a New Age revival, the dreams shall be shattered, for this genre was always pushed back and talked dead; you cannot revive anything that has never been alive. But there is the possibility of a new viewpoint and excitement by individuals shattered around the globe to rush back to the past and check out the remaining fruits of this genre in the present. Different layers of history merge, and such being the case, Exises is a terrific EP for Ambient fans who normally despise this music for synth hippies. I am one of those scallywags, but got to know the past a bit better through the present – the music of Stellar OM Source.


Further reading: 

  • The Twitter account of Stellar OM Source is @omsource.
  • Her SoundCloud page with lots of live mixes and songs is definitely worth a visit when you're craving for that certain sound of the past.


Ambient Review 023: Stellar OM Source – Exises (2010). Originally published on Jan. 11, 2012 at