One listen to Constellation, Indonesian indie folk pop duo Stars and Rabbit’s debut studio album, will never be enough. These 11 solidly-produced tracks from guitarist Adi Widodo and singer Elda Suryani are enigmatic, charming, childlike, imaginative, unforgettable and more. The two friends first joined forces in 2011, their combined musical influences including primarily British and Icelandic artists known for pushing creative limits and pioneering sound art: Sigur Rós, Coldplay, Radiohead, Emiliana Torrini, Imogen Heap, and Sia to name a few.
The result of these influences are clear in Constellation where the songs’ textures, emotions and dynamics grow and develop, sometimes starting with childlike charm, then building to a roaring intensity. Ranging from haunting acoustic Appalachian style, to heavy, driving blues rock, the songs incorporate mystical slide guitars and strings, delicate chimes, dark cellos and heavy bass. Suryani’s childlike voice floats over top with a distinctive edge reminiscent of Björk: there are no limits on what she chooses to do, stretching syllables, vocalizing wordlessly, floating melody lines in the pure enjoyment of singing.
Born in Sidoarjo (East Java), Suryani grew up singing in school choirs, later performing in high school and college bands as a lead vocalist. The comparison of her singing style to Iceland’s enigmatic Björk makes her “flattered and confused,” although the control she exerts ranging from sweet and fragile to near-threatening thunderous tones confirms that she is a force to be reckoned with. Dream collaborators for Suryani would include the likes of Imogen Heap or Sia: “They’re just outworld,” she says.
Widodo, solid and confident in his craft, makes for a good collaborator for the ‘outworld’ Suryani. Hailing from Pulang Kijang, Indonesia, he was set on his musical path by his father who was his biggest inspiration. “Music is my own way to find peace,” he says. Self-taught, Widodo learned to play guitar from friends, his surroundings, and life experiences, counting Sigur Rós, Coldplay, Radiohead, Emiliana Torrini and the blues among his influences.
Both had been writing their own music for a few years and had played in bands with other friends for a long time before Suryani contacted Widodo one day in 2011, and asked him to collaborate with her. “There was a time where all I wanted to do was stitch my words and tunes into some melodic solid form,” she recalls. “I called Adi – not sure why but his face popped [into] my mind. We’re old friends.”
Writing songs together has proven that they make good musical partners, although it was never something Suryani intended to do: “My mind is too random and I’m not quite a vocal person. So I learn[ed] to write. I have to break it down when I feel I want to keep certain moments.”
Inspirations come from anything: “Literally everything that caught my eyes, quiet my mind, and warm or tickle my heart. Everything that can [inspire her] and can’t [be] described with words. From books, music, little things that people do, to the moon and night driving.”
Widodo writes from his experiences: “My influence mostly comes from around me. The situation, the place, the people, the view, and from what I’ve been through.”
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Constellation by Stars and Rabbit is available exclusively in the Philippines from Lilystars Records under license by Green Island Music, Indonesia.