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Classic Synth Album Review - Stella by Yello

Yello’s Stella is a classic synth album for which I have a lot of love. I’d grown up listening to their album Baby because my dad owned it, but I bought Stella when I was 15. I remember popping it

into the CD player of my Dad’s hi fi system before my eyes were opened wide by Boris Blank’s crisp production along with a rich mixture of synth tones, quirky samples and Dieter Meier’s unique voice and wild storytelling.

Yello is made up by Boris Blank and Dieter Meier. Blank is mad musical scientist concocting

detailed, eccentric soundscapes using his encyclopedic, original sample library and a wide

assortment of synth sounds. Dieter Meier’s shadowed voice carries his off-the-wall lyrics that tell mad tales. He’s also the band’s manager and producer. Boris Blank’s high quality production and experimental attitude to making music excites me and Dieter Meier’s bizarre characters telling their stories through his unique voice entertain me.

The story of Stella as an album is interesting in itself. When they went to mix it in the summer of 1984, they decided to try a recently perfected digital mixing process. After ten days, they

canceled the mixing sessions because, according to Dieter Meier the music was becoming

soulless. As quoted by Jonas Warstad in Stella: The Story Behind the Album, Meier said that

“With Stella we were being dragged down by an excess of perfection.” After this, they took the album back to their Zurich studios and remixed most of it.

According to Warstad, Dieter Meier wrote and created Stella with “a Fairlight CMI Series II

sampler along with an ARP Odyssey synthesizer, the Linn LM-1 and Oberheim Dieter MeierX

drum machines, a Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus, a Lexicon Hall reverb unit and a Framus


Overall Album Impressions

Stella is an album that combines Yello’s distinctive sonic signature and energy within a sharply produced package that still sounds good today. The album is a superb showcase for the combined talents of Dieter Meier and Boris Blank with additional support from their musical guests. It represents a step forward in the band’s musical evolution as they grew more confident and comfortable with their unmistakable sound.

Boris Blank’s musical wizardry is strongly in evidence on Stella. Each track is an individual sonic exploration that creates entertaining soundscapes. His ability to combine well chosen synth sounds with guitar and his endlessly inventive use of samples creates powerful atmospheres in every piece of music. I am also drawn to his melodic sensibilities, as he composes expressive melodies that are memorable and ear-grabbing. On top of those factors, he also strives for excellent in production, but not to the point that the music’s character is sapped.

The vocal abilities and songwriting skill that Dieter Meier brings to Yello’s music are on full

display on Stella. His voice isn’t exceptional as singing voices go but it has dark shading and a powerful presence that lends the music a distinctive flavour. This album showcases his

songwriting’s story telling ability. Each track for which he’s written lyrics unfolds strange and

engaging tales, drawing me into the fascinating worlds that he creates in his words. Stella was the point at which Meier’s creativity flowered.

Guest contributors are another feature of Yello’s music and the two major collaborators on this album are especially strong. Rush Winters’ performances on this album make the best of her sensuous and expressive vocal style, imbuing Dieter Meier’s lyrics with extra feeling and impact.

Chico Hablas’ guitar performances are full of style, emotion and electrifying energy as they

unfold. Both artists make Stella an even stronger album than it otherwise would have been

without their presence.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Desire” begins as steadily throbbing, bouncing drums and hissing shakers are cut by flaring

synth. A steadily guiding drumbeat and bass pulse shapes the music as wandering notes drift high above. Dieter Meier’s shadowed voice adds resonant emotion as a female voice moves behind it. Hard-hitting drums and bass burst along with a twisting, roaming guitar solo that has a blues-inflected feeling to it.

Now Dieter Meier’s spoken word segment adds atmosphere above continually rebounding

drums and solid bass. There’s darkness in the ethereal sonic flow as quickly slicing notes are