Photos: Will Hamilton Coates
In the heart of Winter last year, my mate held his 21st deep down in his back paddock. The disconnection from the outside world in the thick forest reminded many of us of what was to come in just a few months at Strawberry Fields. As we were flying through the list of artists that we were dying to see I was put onto a Belgian outfit called Stavroz.
Following through on the recommendation the next day this is where I first heard The Finishing. This is one of those songs upon first listen that instantly forces you to stop what you are doing. Minds flutter away from reality in this 8-minute journey as we are told a story through sound. No words are needed as the saxophone guides you to an otherworldly place. Finding out it was improvised and completed in one take affirmed my obsession and it has been a staple in my rotation ever since.
Working through their discography, Stavroz has undeniable depth. DJs Ijsbrand De Wilde and Gert Beazar founded the band in 2011 and, in their early releases, Stavroz’s sound was quite up-tempo and Balkan. With each new EP came a deeper and more signature sound. Their most recent EP Kasambila has the group identifiable within seconds.
With band members coming from diverse backgrounds, Stavroz has found a way to instantly connect with people of different musical tastes. The way they add acoustic instruments into the melodies with electronic elements generates a soul that appeals to the peace and goodness in people. It is hard to locate how the band have found a balance between all these instruments. In a previous interview with AL365, the band expressed “It is the notes that are important to us, not the source.” Some Stavroz songs you will find are highly acoustic, others heavily synthesized. Their focus on the raw simplicity in the structure of the songs and not where it comes from displays how the electronic group are attractive to so many audiences.
When discovering a new artist, it can often be a long wait for them to turn up in your city. Luckily mine was only a few months, with Stavroz kicking off the summer festival season at Strawberry.
Closing the Friday night on the Grove Stage in the early hours of the morning, the Belgians could not have absorbed the environment they were in more. After a whole day of dancing in the sun, Strawberry punters were engaged for the full set. It was extraordinary how the 4-piece could bring an unheard sound from the other side of the world and replicate it alongside the Murray River.
At a large-scale event with a mix of world class techno, house and jazz, this set broadened my perspective, breaking the limitations of what I believed dance music could deliver. I can still see the wide smiles and feel the cozy atmosphere as we nestled in from the surrounding trees and the dirt between our toes, stumbling to the beat.
In this time of isolation, we are given more time to try something fresh and take on a new direction. For music, Stavroz is something different. In the same interview with AL365 they added, “We are like a gateway band that introduces people to the music. So, we love that we can do that.” This band introduces you to a whole new world of expressive electronic music. You will not only find one of your new favourite artists, but the key to connect to so many other cultures and languages through emotion and dance.