REVIEW: STAVO — Void of Polarity XI:XI (LP)
Void of Polarity XI:XI is the latest album from prog-rock collective STAVO. The groups’ first full album release after a series of individually released singles and EP (“Everything in Between”), but the band has made a rather loud, expressive, and declarative new debut that is incredibly impressive. Consisting of Dan Steversky (Guitar), Sam Klotz (Bass), John Rolland (Drums), and their newest addition and I’d argue the new heart of the group Sharon Kaplun (Lead vocalist & Keyboard).
As I said earlier, this is a sprawling project with high aims for both its concept (oh yeah, it’s a concept album) and what it hopes to achieve musically, and without Kaplun, as an instrumental experience it probably would have been good, a more than perfectly enjoyable series of compositions that sound like the score to a film that doesn’t exist. Kaplun brings something so distinct to the project, that it just soars with her inclusion. In a way, Kaplun is like the lead in a film, and as the central focus, she carries a heavy weight on her shoulders. The project follows a woman named Indigo, deeply unhappy with her everyday life, her work, and where she’s going. Indigo is eventually contacted by a Council of Light, an enigmatic group of beings who help push her to embrace her own life on her terms and helping her find her own happiness. It’s something that feels like it was plucked out of a novel from someone like Neil Gaiman, fantastical but also poignant and human.
It’s one of those rare projects where the ambitions are perfectly matched by the output. It never feels bloated or overlong and it’s honestly like listening to a symphony in many ways. Every instrument compliments each other perfectly and once again with Kaplun’s new addition, it would have a more standard rock group between the bass, guitar, and drums, and that output once again would have probably been great, listen to the first track to get an idea of that, but the keyboard presence from Kaplun opens up so much on a sound level that it never gets static or gives itself a moment to even potentially limp there. There’s plenty of stylistic choices and little nods and flourishes that never feel like it’s flashy for the sake of it, it’s all in service of the music and in turn the narrative.
It’s building not just a world, but a universe and the consistency among elements is just fantastic especially when the music turns more spiritual and cosmic, feeling reminiscent of eastern and western cultures beautifully colliding into one another. Kaplun’s voice shines through and manages to run the emotional spectrum of quiet and tired and belting her soul out and you feel the conviction with each word. It’s a magnificent album that hopefully isn’t just a one-off. It would be nice to hear what other stories this group has to tell or if they want to go more conventional and release a standard album, either is more than fine by me. More STAVO is a good thing no matter what.