40. Intastella – The right experience

/ The night, Planet 3 Records, 1995

intastella_sleeve

Combining the song title ‘Interlove’ from the Sensation number one LP and the forename of vocalist Stella Grundy, Intastella were Laugh expanded and rebranded.  But major label marketing failed to find the new brand a niche, let alone national or global dominance.  Intastella fell between two points on the pop continuum – too bubblegum for the dance crowd, too conceptual for the mainstream audience of the time.  Their cause wasn’t helped by taking an early wrong turn; their first LP, Intastella and the family of people only really peaked with its ‘Baby you’re a rich man’-referencing single, ‘People’, possessed of a wonderfully melodic bass line and an chorus which crossed pulpit, soap box and football terrace.  Those segments of the market remained indifferent, and MCA dropped them.

Subsequent years saw Intastella launch two further long players and a string of singles, some great, others fair, in an increasingly desperate search for the hit that a sympathetic observer might think they deserved.  Laugh’s open-to-anything optimism was still there in the lyrics – ‘Point Hope’ suggested that if you ‘just close your eyes and believe, the future is for you’ – but the power of Intastella’s own positive thinking wasn’t enough to secure public affection.  They were entitled to ask: if a similar sort of trick worked for Saint Etienne, why was it not working for them?  No matter how kittenish and seductive Stella strove to be, the songs must not have been sprinkled with quite enough angel dust to satisfy casual listeners to Radio 1.  Neither were Intastella the kind to sell their souls down by the crossroads for privileged time in the sun; drafting in Tricky for a remix of ‘Grandmaster’ and releasing a full-on dance-pop cover version of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ Northern Soul favourite ‘The night’ both failed to work a spell for them.

‘The night’ B side ‘The right experience’ reworked ‘The Wright experience’, one of the many fine songs on the Sensation number one LP; it was fitting that at least one should again see the light of day.  Stella’s languid vocal reinterpretation of Martin’s original growling combines to magical effect with an equally blissed-out groove and the oft-quoted psychedelic spiral of scales from ‘Dear Prudence’.

In terms of dance music, where once Laugh had been ahead of the curve, Intastella were a little behind it.  But they were also commendably unwilling to deliver slavishly to order; it might have benefited them to keep the beats on 1995 LP What you gonna do coolly trippy, but instead they went for variety.  In a pop sense, alongside fellow travellers like Paris Angels, One Dove and Sugar Bullet, Intastella were just a little in advance of the moment.  You could argue that they helped prepare the ground for Goldfrapp, and perhaps even for ‘Can’t get you out of my head’, which (obviously unwittingly) has something of Intastella in its evolved and perfected genes.

And if memory serves, Martin Wright was certainly ahead of the current fashion for pop folk to be twitchers on their days away from studio and stage.  I salute him and his two groups, as I might a pair of magpies.

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