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Press Reviews for SÓLARIS

Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason are two names that in all honesty, not a lot of people know. And while neither musician has yet to really ‘explode’ onto any particular scene, for those in the know, these names carry a lot of weight. Bjarnason, a native of Iceland, has been making huge waves over the last several years, earning accolades from critics and music lovers the world over. With an impressive resume, including joint efforts with internationally beloved acts such as Sigur Ros and mum, Bjarnason has been turning heads all over with his minimalistic brand of neo-classical. Not to be out done, however, is Ben Frost. Frost, while not as much of a critical darling as his peer, is actually part of an esteemed, and highly regarded mentor/protégé project, learning the tips of the trade from none other than the legendary Brian Eno. With such lovely pedigrees, it’s no wonder the two men’s’ collaborative release, Solaris, is such a solid, captivating minimalist release.

What is so impressive about Solaris, is that it is the perfect amalgam of both artists; a superior melding of Bjarnason’s dramatic classical arrangements, and Frost’s introverted minimalism. Shrouded in mystery and cloaked in melancholy, the album is an elusive beast. It’s tremendously low key; sparse, yet completely effective. The record is homage to the classic sci-fi novel of its namesake. Solaris, as a piece of literature, has been praised over the last several decades for its affecting story of love, as well as the somber isolation depicted by the infinite black of space. Despite the genre label, it’s a very humanistic drama, touching upon the loneliness of those in space, as well as the crippling fear of the unknown. Frost and Bjarnason have truly captured the spirit of the story, as well as its two acclaimed film adaptations. It was an ambitious goal, but in the end it paid off rather well.

As stated, Solaris is a very minimalistic album, featuring the strings and keys found on Bjarnason’s 2010 debut, Processions, but sans the bombast and outward drama. Instead, Frost has added his touch wonderfully, scaling down Bjarnason’s work into a much mellower affair. Songs like “Reyja” (the name of the novel’s sentient apparition) wax and wane with dulcet tones and bulging strings. Discordant notes add a layer of mystery to the entire thing, and with its personality, capture the feeling of longing and dread that the protagonist feels for the song’s title character. Unfortunately, a lot of Solaris follows this formula. Cello is more apparent in some, and keys are absent in others, but as a whole, each song follows the one before it. And while it is all expressly beautiful in its mystique, the album as a whole comes off as a bit homogenous in parts. However, it really is not nearly enough to take too much away from what is an otherwise brilliantly executed album.

Solaris is an unsettling, albeit wondrous achievement. It is the perfect way to further expose the world to these wonderful minimalist composers, and an expertly crafted record in its own right. Not only have they captured the complex emotions of Stanislaw Lem’s masterwork stunningly well, but they’ve created a dark, beautiful, and captivating piece of music in the process.

Sputnikmusic (December 8th 2011) ★★★★★★★

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