When it comes to the electronic music being released in recent weeks, we have American names like Ital or Blondes, who project a luminous, optimistic gaze, while in England, we can find examples such as Stay+, who offer music with more shadows than light, decidedly introverted. Both options propose different ways of facing climactic moments: Ital and Blondes are like a purifying ecstasy, while Stay+ is more like a catharsis. Or to say it another way: the Americans are making an electronic music in search of redemption (and escapism?) at the end of a night in cosmic planes and chill-out spaces, while Stay+ faces up to their darker side, encoding the uneasiness and general pessimism that characterises the UK and Europe at this time in their music.
Stay+ belong to the same branch of English electronic music that can be traced back to the proto-electronic of labels like Mute or Factory at the end of the 70s and the early 80s, without giving up the pop attraction like those labels did. The fact that Stay+ come from northern England, where the darkest electronic bubbled up already 30 years ago, reinforces this connection.
This EP, whose title refers to their name before they changed it to Stay+ because of the complaints of the religious charity organisation Christian Aid, is basically a compilation of the songs that they have been letting trickle out to us over recent months. From the first moment, the sound constants that have allowed them to stand out are clear: disorienting effects, like strobe lights spinning around you, melancholy climactic moments that subtly build, and voices that bring them closer to pop ( “Stay Positive”), as well as exciting melodies and some isolated elements like the bass at the end of “Scum.” And darkness, of course, through rhythms and ambient sounds that are more punishing than celebratory, like those of “Young Luv” or especially those of the abrasive and brutal “Protection,” the only previously unreleased song of those included here.
But the identity of Stay+ isn’t complete until you see the videos that illustrate these songs, especially because it is here that you can see a sense of humour that is already present in their name itself, which should be read Stay Positive. So, in the video of “Young Luv,” they imagine a parallel universe in which Kate Middleton stands William up—because she gets stuck in a traffic jam!– something which doesn’t keep the prince from going ahead with the wedding ceremony. In “Scum,” they imagine a nuclear apocalypse started by North Korea, whose international image of parades is reduced here to the level of kitsch, thanks to the way it is set up. In “Fever,” on the other hand, they set aside their sense of humour to tell about a young woman’s frustrated night out, starting at the end of the night, set up in such a way that the night’s different emotional states coincide with the evolution of the music in the little more than three minutes that the song lasts. Other video clips are more abstract, like that of “Stay Positive,” which visually reproduces the dizzying effect of their music, but which is equally effective for seeing it.
With only a handful of songs, Stay+ have achieved a very personal sound, immediately identifiable a few seconds into each of their songs. Their proposal is, then, one of the most solid, interesting ones right now in the UK. This EP should allow us to catch up with them, while we are waiting for their coming releases.