El Viaje - Story of Stephen (EP) - Stereo Stickman

El Viaje Story of Stephen (EP)


This aptly titled EP does indeed present listeners with an in-depth, artistically crafted story that proves fascinating and powerful to escape into. El Viaje showcases a sense of cinematic awareness, cleverly blending thoughtful attention to detail with a clearly intentional underlying energy that wholly and boldly represents each changing stage of the journey.

S.O.S starts things up, and it’s a gentle call for help – dashes of piano meet with a throbbing synth and fragments of historical spoken word for context. Slowly but surely the mood and the details envelop you, inciting a modest sense of rising anticipation and increasing brightness alike.

Headlights follows on and feels notably more experimental. Enter a sci-fi soaked, retro synth bass-line and ambiance that again sets the scene in a compelling manner. Soon come strings, a chord progression and subtle contrast between darkness and light – a smart nod to the title idea. Later on, the full-throttle vibrancy of the eighties hits as the drum comes into play, along with flickers of soulful guitar and keys that again feel freshly reignited from the Blade Runner days.

What’s also refreshing about this project is that none of these compositions can be simply skipped through – there are so many sudden changes and moments of evolution; you need to listen from start to finish in order to experience the full effect of the escapism on offer.

1986 keeps the mood alive and introduces various layers of melody, juxtaposing industrial grit with electronic delicacy. The sheer visual appearance of the wave track on Soundcloud indicates its complex journey, but to commit to the audio experience in full is something of its own, and well worth doing. A beautifully ambient and progressive composition that’s impossible to pigeon hole.

There are threads throughout this EP, familiar characteristics that keep the overall book or film relevant to itself, yet still each piece is notably unique and powerful in its own way. Furthermore, each one takes its time to build around you – not rushed by industry standards or expectations, just authentically leading the way with whatever the moment creatively requires. Phantoms is a decidedly subtle yet haunting track, and a perfect example of precisely this quality in action.

Dedalus brings things to an intriguing finish. Juxtaposition again creates a stark dynamic, with light strings suggestive of optimism, and industrial crackles suggestive of uncertainty. Then things evolve entirely, and this retro dance composition, complete with tribal melodies and equal parts humanity and electricity, builds and builds around you – energising the room, providing something of an epic final scene. There’s a strong inclination to wonder what the accompanying visuals might entail, but at the same time, it’s a pleasure to let your own imagination fill in the gaps.

A brilliantly unusual, mesmerising and skilfully crafted EP. Listen loud, or with noise-cancellers to fully connect with the process.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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