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Press Reviews for SÓLARIS

The title Solaris is on too many works, all of them spread away from each other. First there was Stanislaw Lem’s novel in 1961, from which we owe the derivatives: Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic 1972 film version of the novel (whose deviation from the source profoundly disappointed Lem), 2002’s United States remake (which deviated from both according to American tastes), and finally 2011’s stand-alone re-scoring of the Tarkovsky version by Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason, the actual subject I’m assuredly getting to.

It’s lazy and easy to compare all of these works against each other, and it’s lazy and easy to compare the music that Frost and Bjarnason have made to other superb work in field of scoring and soundtracks. But since all of the best film scores have legs of their own to not only stand, but actually walk away from their source, we should proceed without an assumption that it should be paired with anything, certainly since, barring some rushed Criterion special edition, it never will be in reality.

The Solaris of Frost and Bjarnason is the sound of despair, isolation, and claustrophobia within one’s own mind and body. While Frost has brought his digital approach into the songwriting, the music is dominated by the orchestral execution of the 28-piece symphony from Krakow, Poland. This is a familiar foothold for listeners to grasp onto, but it’s a difficult journey regardless. The steady but ruthless flow of dynamics strangle the listener’s sense of peace and the strained pitches of the instruments take you by the hand, carefully, and lead you into a madness that is far from hallucinatory.

There is no release in the record. No climactic payoff. No easily digestible melody to break from the desolate and oppressive emotional landscape that the music paints in front of us. The power of Solaris is slow to arrive at your realization and difficult to connect with unless you’re paying attention and willing to follow our guides into the world they’re conveying to you. Once inside, the music follows and haunts you for days, revealing a vision so subtle, disturbing and dark as to trump the emotional affect of even Krzysztof Penderecki, Trent Reznor or B. Lustmord at their most inspired.

The brilliance of the album is just as staggering as its emotional affect. Every note and every swell seems carefully constructed and nothing is out of place. After the bleak fog falls away there is always a beauty driven underneath, and if the music is disturbing, it’s anything but ugly. Solaris, the album, is a master stroke because it is its own expression, as much a representation of Bjarnason and Frost as it is of their interpretations of Tarkovsky’s film. In that, it stands as one of the best film scores of all time. And on its own, it is one of the most successful modern classical compositions you could hear.

Neil Levens

Groovemine (January 10th 2012) ★★★★★★★★★★

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