There’s a reason why I write so often in my reviews about technological anxieties. After all most of the music I review wouldn’t be possible; due to either the software/hardware used to create the sound, and also the means, in which I am able to listen to the music, through the internet.
Yet something strange has happened to humanity as a result of all these technological innovations. We’ve been able to receive any pleasure, talk to any person from any place on earth with internet connection, we can find any piece of information at the click of a mouse; but with these new technological achievements it brings with it a sort of nihilism. Is life nothing more than the pursuit of pleasure? We can talk to anybody, anywhere, at any time, yet are the connections meaningful? With all the abundance of information–what is true and what is false? In short, the more we use computers, the more we become like computers–a series of inputs, and outputs.
I bring this up, because solarein’s album neon demons is the perfect encapsulation of all these themes and expresses the feelings many of us have felt about this drastic change in human nature. Take the opening track neon demons, the synths are so expertly crafted panning over to each ear, while an ambient sort of electronic choir sings. In fact it’s one of the best crafted electronic songs I’ve ever heard.
This will be a pattern in all of solarein’s music. Every single thing is so well crafted that you cannot do anything but admire his technical prowess. From the ambience, to the guitar playing, to the samples he chooses, etc. Everything he touches is so well done, so perfected, and mastered so precisely– that it’s not like other artists who have a synth song and then slap a guitar solo over it, or blend ambient textures with electronic music. No. Each piece of the puzzle fits so well, and with any slight change would alter the track drastically.
So back to neon demons with solarein’s technical prowess it’s man at his best conquering technology. Yet it’s not a triumphant sound, it’s an existential dread. Even the ambient noise in the background has this grating noise in the back ground, that switches to a choir pad, and then to a distorted guitar. It’s unnerving. Both the technical skill that is displayed, and the existential dread it produces. Like a matador who awes the crowd by slaying the bull–bows at the applause–and then limps out of the arena; traumatized by the experience.
The next track, schism provides even more context into this struggle of man vs. technology. Every single musician–who is in modern music–first played guitar. We all wanted to be Jimi Hendrix, we all wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. All of modern music, is nothing more than cultural residue of the social revolutions of the 60’s where Frank Sinatra was replaced by the fab four. The guitar playing is as great as any of the bands we used to listen to, it’s guitar tone is rich, unique, and fits perfectly with the song. The synthetic drums, and synths take a backseat to the music, and then it happens. A sample of what sounds like underwater ambience takes over, and you hear the tearing apart of something. And then you realize what it is. That we are living through another social revolution, where the guitar playing of the past is being washed away and torn out. The cultural memories and achievements of the past are being replaced with digitized world of the present.
broken doesn’t at first sound like it’s broken. The pads, and ambient textures feels like something to be marveled at. Even the choirs sound a bit heavenly. But it’s precisely this soundscape that sets us up for the rest of the track. Whenever something new is accomplished we all huddle around it and marvel. Humanity pats itself on the back for it’s accomplishments. We look at every new advancement with pride, as we “progress.” Even some of the synths and electronic blips sounds like a cicada’s chirp on a hot summer day. It’s impressive that solarein is able to accomplish such a feat, to make the synthetic sound as natural as the real world. Yet this technological tower of Babel, can never rival the beauty and majesty of the natural world, and solarein interrupts this beautiful electronic soundscape with an anxious industrial distorted sound. It reminds us that even a futuristic technological society will still malfunction. The question is, who will it be first, us or the machines?
The next track nucleus continues to show how talented solarein is in creating an atmosphere. Little details like the sound of birds chirping, reminds me of a little story about the famed novelist Vladimir Nabokov. A student approached him, and told him that he wanted to be a writer, Nabokov pointed to a tree and asked, “What is the name of that tree?” The student answered, “I don’t know,” and Nabokov replied, “Then you will never be a writer.” It’s the ability to insert little details like that, that makes solarein such a great artist. The birds chirping with a beautiful airy ambience in a background, creates a mood that is both meditative and introspective. Something that calls back to something more real and substantive. In fact in choosing the title name “nucleus” even further solidifies the human element into the song. After the hellish industrial noise of broken the track needs an answer; after all we’ve only had the internet for about 20 years, this isn’t our natural state–but the peaceful sound of nucleus creates a sort of yearning of a time long gone.
It’s no surprise that after this the track titles take on a more nature themed names, like evergreen or bloom. evergreen begins with these reverbed out vocals, that sound so ancient. The vocals sound so old, and wearied yet so expansive, as though they were being played out on top of a mountain for the whole world to hear. The ambient hissing, and what sounds to be labored breathing feels like the last gasps of a dying world. Then you hear it. The distorted arpeggiated synths as though you are in a cybernetic carnival, though this carnival doesn’t provide any sort of happiness. Rather it’s a cruel, and taunting sound. bloom provides another perspective on this same event, while evergreen was on the macro scale, bloom is on the micro scale, the individual. Who at first welcomes everything that’s new to him with such glee. The synths start off happy, a stark contrast to the previous track, but as the track progresses, the synths slowly begin to change… You can hear in the ambient noise, a woman’s vocals, and an oriental violin, but you only hear pieces of it. Just like you can just recall those moments of seeking something deeper, something more meaningful, yet the synths drown these brief moments of clarity out. At first they arpeggiate into some sort of glee, then they transform into harsh distorted screams, until…all that remains is what sounds like wind, which slowly transforms itself into an electronic noise. Then the track abruptly stops. Because let’s face it, we’re all trying to seek enlightenment through the very thing that causes us existential angst.
So with this masterfully created album that blends both the organic ambient textures, and synthetic electronic music; it’s truly a testament to solarein’s skill as a musician. The track is littered with little details that rewards the listener for paying attention. Like any great work of art–beauty is in the subtle–in the minor brushstroke that can separate the amateur from the master. Truly this album is something to be listened to over and over again.
solarein for capturing the existential angst of the digital era, undeniably deserves my recc.