Fringe: Outside the Pop Periphery

source: Rizki Maulana


Stellar Dreams’ music wouldn’t be out of place in a neon-lit nu noir directed by Nicolas Winding Refn starring a very taciturn Ryan Gosling. The self-proclaimed ‘80s revivalist and synth junkies duo – Iqwan Ridzuwan and Khairil Shah – makes music hugely indebted to Kavinsky – their biggest single ‘Nightvoid’ (featuring Canadian vocalist Dana Jean Phoenix) sounds like it was a b-side off Drive’s OST. Hell, it even began with the sound of an engine’s ignition and the soft drizzling of rainwater on asphalt. The whole car motif of Outrun adorns their cover arts as well – these guys wear their influences on their sleeves, proudly.

You’d be very wrong to reduce them as just rip-offs though, Stellar Dreams make convincing synthwave tunes, an all-encompassing term that befits the whole nu disco, French touch phenomenon, citing Daft Punk’s latest LP Random Access Memories and the aforementioned movie as the instigator to its emergence as electronic music du jour. Then there was also the satirical Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon that played homage to Stellar Dreams’ other love; ‘80s score.

“We’d normally hit up some classics like John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, Risky Business, Big Trouble in Little Tokyo, and try to imagine the feelings we would like to capture for the tracks we want to make,” they told us. Capturing that decade’s ethos goes beyond just understanding their filmic influences, the duo also absorbed ‘80s commercials, Cyndi Lauper’s records, and even Dolph Lundgren’s workout videos into their musical psyche (JUICE isn’t sure whether they were joking about the last one).

All of this education on a bygone era has proven to be worth their time, Stellar Dreams are under international labels Kiez Beats [GR] and Glacis Records [FR], an impressive feat considering they are not as recognised locally. The trick, according to the duo, is having a good knowledge of the blogosphere. Naming the likes of Discodust, Dödselectro, Electronic Rumors, and Synthetix.FM, they hinted persistence to their method.

“We just pushed our materials to the right blogs and labels with the appropriate genre, mailed them countless times, and from there people would notice you and your sounds will eventually spread across.”

With recognition from overseas, you can forgive them for not being too concerned about being validated by the scene here. “It’s a bit hard making a name here knowing that synthwave and the whole ‘80s revival scene here is quite new but that’s just the least of our concerns,” said Iqwan, continuing that while they make music for the love of it, he does hope that the genre will be a bigger part of the scene here. With talents like them and Dizkopolis representing the French touch in KL, we’re hoping for the same too.

Stellar Dreams are also hopeful of the bigger DJ-producer scene here. Another sentiment we share with them – it’s been too long that the dance circuit has been dominated by old school DJs who are more used to mixing than composing originals. “It is great that there are actually people coming up with their own original material from here and not just relying on other sources for new music,” said the duo, clearly frustrated by press-play DJs.

The duo’s creation can be somewhat credited to MaddKidz, as Khairil met Iqwan after hearing the podcast the latter made for the DJ studio. Curiously, ‘Nightvoid’ was the first track they made together after mucking about at Iqwan’s place with FL Studio for 6 hours. After which Khairil quickly went on to make an artwork for and Iqwan arbitrarily came up with the name ‘Stellar Dreams’ (“It was really random when all of that happened.”).

Imagine where they would be now had randomness not taken rein of their career direction. Currently, Stellar Dreams just released their 3rd EP The Crusader on Glacis Records this month. You can also expect a collaborative album with Futurecop! from the boys, which will be out sometime this summer. Pretty cool for a duo that happened almost on a whim.