Here it is: the nearly three-year career span of of Marie Stella — one of Portland’s most predominant live acts — condensed into an appropriately modest six tracks. It shouldn’t surprise many that the final release from the forward thinking noise-pop four-piece ended up being an odds-and-ends collection from a series of recordings that was destined to be their full-length debut. After all, Marie Stella only properly released around 15 songs total in their career. Instead, the posthumous from serves as a farewell letter from a band that didn’t let previous conceptions of the reach of local music hinder their ambitious, albeit short, career trajectory.
Like all great farewell letters, from provides a bittersweet idea of what the future could have held for Marie Stella. Rarely, has the band’s sound been as propulsive and driving, leapfrogging ahead of the readily available comparisons to the early noise-pop of early ’90s Slumberland Records and arriving at a melodic intensity only hinted at in their 2010 debut EP Trust. At its core though, from still relies on the jarring juxtaposition of Matthew Erickson and Bryan Bruchman’s math-rock guitar swirl, with Sydney Bourke’s unblemished vocal delivery.
With unswaggering conviction, Bourke’s deceptively innocent tone cuts through the buzzsaw of guitar noise in the opening track “Spade” elevating the chorus to soaring heights: “It won’t be too long before I say what I needed to say/ I’m just trying to be stronger/ To call a spade a spade.” Despite the track’s abrasive wall-of-sound base, “Spade” bleeds pop-sensibility from the quartet, as the mantra-like chorus takes several repetitious forms before crashing to an abrupt ending. The musical ground Marie Stella is able to cover in the two-and-a-half-minutes of “Spade” is impressive and illustrates their flash-fire approach to creating music on a micro level.
While the bulk of from‘s six-tracks has the band screaming through at a propulsive rate, “En Fluxx” is a sinister, slowly-churning track that abruptly breaks away from Bourke’s deceptively pristine verse into a screeching Sonic Youth inspired chorus. ”Take away your anger/ Only give me your good side” repeats Bourke before the frantic experimentation subsides back into the melodically bass-driven verse. The sudden shifts in style make “En Fluxx” one of the most impressively atmospheric and complex songs in the band’s small cannon and provides the listener with one of the few hints of what came after Marie Stella for 3/4′s of the band — Portland supergroup Sunset Hearts.