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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Solar Fields Formations (2022)

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

A splendid SF album with evolving moods in a kaleidoscopic sound fauna

1 Animals 7:35

2 Echostream 8:26

3 Omatic 7:24

4 Motion Horizon 7:30

5 A Friend 6:23

6 Star Carnival 9:22

7 Between Mirrors 5:29

8 Always 034746 9:55

9 Desolation 7:59

10 Lemonia 8:24

(CD/Vinyl/DDL 78:31) (V.F.)

(Synth Music, Electronica, Psybient)

A 10,000-word chronicle! Here I am at an album where I will run out of vocabulary to describe all the multiple layers of sound effects, the numerous tonal avenues, and the rhythmic and emotional mutations that encompass the 78 minutes of this superb Solar Fields' FORMATIONS. More than 4 years separate Ourdom and this new SF opus and its tone is less psytrance-like and slightly more accessible. In the meantime, Magnus Birgersson has rather enjoyed re-releasing with a new mastering his complete back catalogue albums. In terms of original creation, the palette is quite thin with a mini album in 2019, Undiscovered Stories, and a single last year, By the Void. Despite these years, the Swedish musician's universe is still conceived of a tonal meticulous research and of bold designs to create a sonic and musical aesthetic that has few equivalents in the field. Even in the most psychedelic territories of psybient! In fact, we are in a territory that transcends the genre. In a new musical lexicon where Solar Fields is the architect capable of putting into sounds and music the smallest details of an imagination that flirts with the hardest of drugs. A gift for tortured minds, as well as for those who like to abandon themselves to the fantasies of this musician who knows how to pull the strings of his numerous instruments as well as those of our emotions. Because the music of Solar Fields follows a very precise scheme. It starts with an atmospheric opening, more or less long, which is linked to this new lexicon. A structure of rhythm, heavy, slow as animated emerges from it to follow a curve of progression in order to generate temporary ecstasies until Solar Fields decides to make us rise to the pinnacle of the auditory pleasure. Particular moments that he judiciously inserts in very precise places in FORMATIONS in order to hold the listener hostage of his feelings. Each title is independent one from the other in this new SF opus. This does not prevent them from being linked by a fascinating kaleidoscopic sound fauna where new details, new nuances and new sounds can be detected with each new listening. But it is not this quality that drives us to listen again to this innovative universe. It is rather the wide range of rhythms of all forms: lively, ambient, danceable, slow and heavy that flirt with the essences of Electronica, futuristic synthpop or psybient et which follow transitional phases in atmospheres that dominate the short threads of melodies. These fragmented melodies come and go like spectres radiating iridescent colors in dark as well as in bright ambiences that flirt with the Cosmos and, more down to earth, with melancholy as well as its contrast. In short, a whole spectrum of emotions where goose bumps are the cradle of our melancholy!

A buzzing shadow, and its more musical spectre, introduces the cosmic landscape of Animals. Already we hear the peculiarities and the richness of the sounds that belong to the SF lexicon. The percussive elements, or cadenced noises depending on your interpretation, are also part of the rhythmic diversity of this album. And the one that develops Animals has a fascinating tribal essence from another galaxy far from ours and yet intimately linked if you abuse a little of these illicit substances. We hardly pass the 3rd minute when the rhythm metamorphoses into a line of cadenced strobes which develops a spasmodic movement that keyboard riffs wrap with a more musical essence. This line of strobes undulates, favoring these contrasts between the rhythms versus the ambiances and the snippets of melodies. Another metamorphosis organizes a more nuanced rhythm, almost in a tribal electronic rock mode, bringing out even more the contrast of the rhythms while the level of the ambiances accentuates its emotional bend. Echostream proposes a pulsating rhythm coated with a rubbery membrane and whose cadence is hyper driving. There is a kind of elastic slingshot effect in the bass pulses that knock the beat whereas it is running now in a form of ascending rhythmic marathon. I find a tribal essence that is more in IDM mode with this good ascent move and good percussive effects that jump from one ear to another in an outcome always carried by its dose of intensity and by ricochet of emotions. A very solid track, Omatic starts with a slow rhythm set on a vampiric bass wave whose oblong creepy movements raise a tonal imprint. While the main backbone is soft, slow and dreamy, its environment fizzes with percussive effects that try to give speed to this track ideal for a slow cerebral dance. And as all is not immutable in FORMATIONS, its second part wakes up to a rhythm whose heaviness and slowness answer a line of jerky bass-pulses. The bass layer literally eats our eardrums in this track, as well as this invasive melody struck by the keyboard. The slow-motion effect that wanders through and this emotive synth surge are among the many seductive elements of this track that we want to hear again immediately. After a slow start, Motion Horizon embraces the structure of a seductive heavy, vibrant and also very lunar downtempo, like an ambient slow beat. The mass of sounds and that tinkling melody in the shadow of the voracious bass layer anchor our ears to our emotions. Percussions and bass-pulses resonate and bounce as much as the chords of a melancholic keyboard, initiating a second half that is as emotional as passionate in an intense musical pinnacle. A Friend is tugged by its cosmic yet celestial opening before double percussion hits adjusts a slow rhythm well guided by that shadow of a bass that moves like a ghost, pushing the rhythm towards a delicate acceleration. The latent paroxysm is provided by another good push of emotions around the 4th minute. The vibe is cosmic with superb orchestrations to make a rock sigh. This track exudes those moments of ecstasy and chills that I heard in Until we Meet the Sky.

A reverberating rumble sounding like a drone spitting out its bolts is the source of Star Carnival. A fluorescent blue synth pad adjusts the moods to propel them into a big, heavy EDM. These layers have garish orchestral shadows that envelop this impetuous movement. Crystalline particles emerge and erode in jerky grooves to drive the music to its atmospheric harbor just before the 4-minute mark. A brief moment before Star Carnival is reborn in a heavier and livelier structure with arrangements still screaming of emotivity. Between Mirrors is a bit more atmospheric with a texture of sound effects and various beats that carve out a stationary rhythm wriggling of its thousand tonal possibilities. This kaleidoscope of restless tones evolves with a crescendo of emotions that keeps our own on the alert, or on the verge of overflowing with those shivers of orgasmic-sounds. The skeleton of Always 034746 unravels in jerky spirals that twirl in a sustained spasmodic momentum. You can hear the mechanical pounding of the arpeggios that seem to come down from the sky. It's like dancing an Electronica choreography in reverse! The rhythm develops into a more danceable structure in the second half. We almost flirt with a mix of rock and synthpop that becomes more and more catchy. The rattling effects add an industrial touch, while other sound effects try to make my vocabulary work a little more. And yet, a 3rd rhythmic mutation takes place, giving an unstoppable momentum to this rhythm that harmonizes with whispering and/or synthesized chirping tunes and astral voices. We are definitely somewhere else here! A vibrant shadow and heavy percussions are the source of Desolation's heavy and slow rhythm. In fact, the opening is in symbiosis with the title! This mass of dark and hyper enveloping sounds gets manhandled by these percussions which are became heavier and also more incisive. The ambiences are resounding and moving with a dense velum loaded with compressed sound particles where are grafted these electronic arrangements inborn to the style of Solar Fields. Needless to say, the chills run as much in my living room as on my arms. In spite of a short phase of unfinished meditation, it remains a track with a heavy and slow rhythm which carries our emotions with a power to turn us in our boxer shorts. Lemonia ends this FORMATIONS with a heavy rhythm well hammered by this mesh of bass, percussions and pulsing bass-lines where nests a small melody that unfolds in successive loops. The title goes by a more meditative phase, always rich of this abundant tonal fauna, where arpeggios vibrate of their shimmering effects. This bubbling phase has this ascending effect that throws itself into a finale where cosmic rock remains close to Electronica in some other good electronic arrangements that constantly oversize the music of Magnus Birgersson.

Available on CD and vinyl via the Sidereal label, a division of Italy's Avantgarde Music label, as well as in a 24Bit HQ download on Solar Fields' Bandcamp, FORMATIONS is the kind of album I'll listen to for weeks before moving on. I know we're far from the Berlin School genre and its derivatives that I usually review on this site, but sometimes it's just delicious to get out of our comfort zone to hear what's being done elsewhere. And this new Magnus Birgersson album is a little jewel of a sound universe that is far from what we usually hear. And it is done in evolving rhythms, changing moods and electronic arrangements to make our soul cry. A splendid Solar Fields!

Sylvain Lupari (November 25th, 2022) *****

Available at Solar Fields Bandcamp

(NB: Text in blue are links you can click on)

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