Press Reviews for SÓLARIS
- The Silent Ballet
- Folk Radio UK
- Foxy Digitalis
- Heathen Harvest
- The Reykjavík Grapevine
- Time Out New York
- The Milk Factory
- self-titled magazine
- Bearded Magazine
- Headphone Commute
- Drowned In Sound
- Iceland Review
- The Muse In Music
- City Paper
- Fluid Radio
- Filter Magazine
A chill wind blows through Sólaris, the first collaboration between Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason and current Icelandic resident Ben Frost, a sub-zero gale that could just as easily have come from the depths of space as from the blasted Icelandic terrain.
Fitting, really, that the music herein should hail from a country known for its coldness and its somewhat lunar terrain, considering the story behind the music.
Originally scored by Aduard Artemyev, 'Solaris' is a film by Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky, made in 1972 and based on Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel of the same name. Briefly, 'Solaris' concerns a handful of scientists aboard a space station studying an alien world that is covered in an ocean that may well be one enormous planet-covering organism. The organism sends forth various apparitions to interact with the scientists, as it is studying them as much as they are studying it. A study of grief and the inefficacy of human/alien communication, the tragedy of the story is played out at a glacial pace as the alien organism manifests the guilt and shame of the dwindling crew.
Commissioned by the Polish Unsound Festival , Frost and Bjarnason embarked upon a re-scoring of 'Solaris', feeling that then original score had not aged well and did not adequately reflect the human internal conflicts at the heart of the films story. Known for their intense sounds – Frost's By The Throat and Bjarnasons Processions in particular – the two composers have fashioned a tense, minimal and elegantly glacial soundtrack to the film, using a radical method: composed by the two men using treated piano, guitar and various digital means, the resulting score was then fed into a digital transcription program, and the result then retranscribed for the more traditional orchestral instruments of the Sinfonietta Cracovia, who join the two composers in the execution of this work. The results are as haunting and haunted as the film itself.
Glassily droning strings open the first piece, the eerily-titled 'We Don't Need Other Worlds, We Need Mirrors' – a reference to the oceanic surface of Solaris itself and to the apparitions and doppelgangers that appear – and the atmosphere conjured can be cut with a knife. A miasma swathing the entire work in a dreamlike fug of dread and claustrophobia. For the inhabitants of the space station onscreen there is no escape, and this is writ large within the music of Frost and Bjarnason. Slowly sirening violins, brittly discordant piano and subharmonic drones ratchet up the tension until it is clear that there is no hope. 'Venia' brings the work to a close, a beautiful sound with an air of finality that puts the unfamiliar listener under no illusions as to how the film plays out.
A nerve-fraying, tension-laden listen, Sólaris should be regarded as a triumph for both composers and as a very welcome added dimesnion to an already greatly-revered work of cinematic art.
Bearded Magazine (November 28th 2011)
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James McVinnie, St John's College
St Johns's College
Cambridge (United Kingdom)
James McVinnie, 26th Cork French Film Festival
St Finn Barre's Cathedral
Daniel Bjarnason, MusicNOW Festival
with Daníel Bjarnason and Nico Muhly
Cincinnati (United States)
Mute Mexico Punto de Encuentro Festival
with Ben Frost
Punto de Encuentro Festival
James McVinnie at St Peter's
St Albans (United Kingdom)