Stelios Vassiloudis enters an inspiring new phase as he unveils his sophomore LP All Else Fails available March 25th via Balance Music.
Hailing from Athens, Greece, Stelios Vassiloudis poses a triple threat as a composer, producer and DJ. Having been active in the electronic music scene since the early 2000s he has cultivated his own brand of distinctive ambience reflective of his rich and diverse musical background; transcending the dance floor via an emotional narrative of complex soundscapes, intricate harmonies and hypnotic rhythms. Over the past decade Stelios has released music under various other monikers, yet this new endeavour is his most diligent to date – allowing him to rediscover his love for making music during the process, “I’m more hopeful, inspired and determined than ever before.”
Ten years on from the release of his debut LP, Stelios’ detail-oriented offerings remain incomprehensibly thought-provoking and thorough with this new album. Both emotive and technically astute, the creative intuition packed into All Else Fails is almost difficult to fathom – “If there’s one consistent modus operandi I try to adhere to, I’d say it’s to create music with purpose… It seems like such a waste to make something intentionally generic or unoriginal.”
Noticeably dissimilar to any previous efforts, Stelios consciously took a step back from the pressure of maintaining a steadily flowing supply of functional, club-oriented music and as the world stood still amidst the pandemic, he embraced the opportunity to reconnect and express himself with a broader musical vocabulary. He admits that: “with the world around us seemingly on the fast track to Armageddon, the music ended up being very much reflective of the sadness and helplessness I felt.”
All Else Fails is a stimulating odyssey to anyone listening. Harmonically dense, arcadian glistens seep throughout the ten tracks, each complimentary to the next. Bask in the wistful iridescence and you won’t be disappointed. Inspired by a deep love for Cinema, Stelios has noted that “films whose stories provoke thought and explore certain themes end up resonating with me and having profound effects on my creativity.” Evidently a motive he carries within his own work.
Opening track ‘End Transmission’ was the first on the album to be completed. After Stelios sought reclusion in his studio during the pandemic, he was met with a 64-bar loop of ambient drones and harmonic washes after wading through folder upon folder of previously created projects, in search of something different. Rather “generic” at the time, Stelios made deliberate adjustments including ⅞ time signature changes impacting the phrasing and rhythmic patterns, and ensured plenty of time was set aside to revel in all of the magical unpredictability when recording with live instruments. ‘Too Little Too Late’ outlines the beauty of this magic, as Stelios explains, “Having modified my studio setup to be able to record everything from guitar feedback from a blasting 4×4 cabinet to the sound of the wind rustling through leaves outside my window, I made it a daily habit to capture, document, treat and store hours upon hours of recordings – the sound sources that comprise the elemental building blocks of tracks like ‘Too Little Too Late’.”
Moving through the album, Stelios‘ mindful extractions continue to break down barriers, rewriting the rules of the electronic genre, with such a refreshing perspective. ‘Ashes’ explores a piqued curiosity of prepared instruments, whilst ‘Mother’ mirrors elements of abstract hip-hop and turntablism of the 90s. Leading into “break track” ‘Neon Dream’. At first glance, we’re met with a blend of intricacies that could easily spell-out disaster, when combined, however, Stelios’ bona fide talent and track record prove the unthinkable.
After a deep dive in a folder filled with more loops and jams, Stelios wanted to make space for some broken beat, intelligent electronica on the album, introducing ‘White Cells’. A funky 5/4 groove that came alive with a decoration of synths and bells.
Stepping into the final few tracks, ‘Avissos’ (‘Avissos’ means “Abyss” in Greek) is likely the most deceptively simple ambient track of the ten. Stelios describes it as, “one long jam between 3 guitars moving around suspended chords in different voicings… while the haunting lead sound was achieved with an e-bow.” ‘Womb‘ on the other hand could be considered the boldest track. A piece that forced Stelios outside of his comfort zone, seeing himself record elements in ways he never thought he would.
Title track ‘All Else Fails’ is the penultimate on the record, and also the last track to make the cut. Initially, Stelios was aiming to create an intro track for a streaming DJ set hence the compilation of atmospheric textures, pads, glitches and drones. However, with the addition of some melodic lines from a heavily effected acoustic guitar and some basic chord changes courtesy of the bass tones, what started off as a functional DJ tool ended up taking on a life as an arranged piece of music. “I intentionally kept the arrangement linear and simple. I wanted the focus to be on the development of dynamics and the interplay between the repetitive melodic patterns – a lot like a club track (minus the obvious rhythmic elements).”
Closing with ‘Time To Die’ Stelios leaves us with some unintentional messages interpreted from the film/book, ‘Blade Runner’. “Fans of Philip K. Dick and/or Ridley Scott will recognise the source of the titular line of dialogue and be aware of the symbolism and subtext in these works. Of course, I had absolutely no intention of referencing either or writing music that could be in any way related to the lore of “Blade Runner”, but some crucial aesthetic and musical choices are likely informed by the existential, religious and philosophical messages I’ve interpreted from the film and book. “
Entering this new phase of his career, All Else Fails is a collection of works that marks a departure from the confines of club music and represents the essence of what Stelios is all about – merging his diverse formative influences, combined with his profound training and the limitless possibilities of electronic music. The outcome of this bold endeavour is a balanced compilation of grand compositions, paired with subtle, nuanced pieces that is set to engage and entice audiences across a broader spectrum.
Stelios carved his way into electronic music by traversing around the globe as a DJ and performer – performing at intimate underground bars in Beirut, festivals in Miami, after-hours in Tokyo, beaches in Goa and mega clubs in Argentina. Having developed a formidable discography on esteemed labels such as Bedrock, Poker Flat, Ovum, Constant Sound and Darkroom Dubs, among others, Stelios’ studio prowess and coveted productions cemented his reputation as a versatile and acclaimed artist. His intense passion and drive for innovation in music serves as the fuel to keep him inspired and relevant, qualities that no doubt ensure his reputation as an artist of the highest calibre, will endure.
A great deal of the arrangement and sonic architecture of the album was a result of the feedback Stelios received from Conor Dalton, the mastering engineer of the project. Alongside Conor, Stelios also collaborated with graphic designer and friend Alexander Konidaris (M.I.A., Girl Talk, Beirut, Mr. Lif, Mecca Clothing) for the visual side of All Else Fails. Growing up together, both Stelios and Alexander were drawn to a lot of the same reference points in visual language with things like Mo Wax Records, Nigo, A Bathing Ape and Lowdown Magazine. Now that the two are both undergoing big life changes, Alexander was keen to draw inspiration from their high school and college years, putting his own twist on the experience.
All Else Fails is out March 25 2022 via Balance Music on 2LP/Cassette/Digital/Streaming
Catalogue number: BAL003LP
1. End Transmission (Album Version)
2. Too Little Too Late
5. Neon Dream
6. White Cells
9. All Else Fails
10. Time To Die
2LP + Bonus download (Limited Edition):
A1. End Transmission (Album Version)
A2. Too Little Too late
B1. White Cells
C1. Neon Dream
C2. All Else Fails
C3. Time To Die
D1. End Transmission (John Beltran’s Sweet Sunny Mix)
D2. White Cells (Yui Onodera Remix)
D3. Neon Dream (ELWD edit) (DJ Version)
D4. Time To Die (Heathered Pearls Remix)
Cassette (Limited Edition):
1. End Transmission (Album Version)
2. Too Little Too Late
5. Neon Dream
6. White Cells
1. All Else Fails
2. Time To Die
3. End Transmission (John Beltran’s Sweet Sunny remix)
4. White Cells (Yui Onodera Remix)
5. Neon Dream (ELWD Remix) (DJ Version)
6. Time To Die (Heathered Pearls remix)