Sunday, December 2, 2012

Album Review: Solterra - Soul » Earth » Sun

Album Rating: A-
I really wish Bandcamp was set up better. Sure, there's a ton of good music on the site, and there have been a ton of good bands that gained the recognition they deserved thanks to the cheap promotion the site provides. However, as is true with basically anything which provides a platform for some form of free expression, a large percentage of material on the site is bad. Sturgeon's Law, created by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, summarizes the flaw quite nicely: "90 percent of everything is crap." While this flaw doesn't necessarily apply to Bandcamp alone, it's exacerbated by the fact that the site has no real ratings system. Unlike other music sites like iTunes or Amazon, there's no ratings system, no easy-to-use "featuring" other than the top 20 albums list or the poorly-set-up "Discover" tab.  As a result, most of the great music on Bandcamp gets hidden behind shoddily-produced and uninventive "crap" which on the whole tends to be either too pretentious for its own good, uninteresting, or just bad.

Solterra are a prime example of a group on Bandcamp who don't earn the kudos they should. In an instrumental rock world that's difficult for people not already acquainted with the genre to enter, Solterra keep a precarious, difficult-to-uphold balance between accessibility, inventiveness and quality. Unlike a lot of post- and instrumental rock today, Soul » Earth » Sun feels like more of an attempt at obtaining a more varied following than just the select group of people who can swoon over every subtle layer of distortion in the average Swans song. This point is most obviously and immediately supported by the lengths of each song: the longest song on the album clocks in at under six minutes, and many tracks are shorter than three and a half minutes. And, yes, at times the track lengths hurt the album. Six-plus-minute buildups don't appear, though as much as that might anger certain genre fans the lack of such sections isn't a major problem on the release. However, some of the songs do feel too short. For example, just as "Grass Roots" seems to get under way, it ends abruptly. For the most part, though, the tracks feel like they're long enough. For this casual fan of the genre, at least, it's great to hear the variety on Soul » Earth » Sun, and the shorter ideas found on the album aid greatly in its immediate appeal. The tempo changes, alternation between flamenco and shredding guitar, and beautifully cymbal-oriented drums - all in under four minutes - on "Spanish Beaches" demonstrate the accessibility well, and are a testament to the talented songwriting here.

Easily the best part of the album is the final third. From the low, menacing power chords and a lead guitar sounding like it's straight out of the '90s on "Sold To Wolves" to the progged-out soloing that closes "Affluenza," the last four songs are a fantastic way to close out an excellent album. It's a good sampling of the release as a whole: there's a lot of distortion, but never too much. There's some clean guitar, but not enough to ruin the feel of the ambitious instrumentation. "Twisted" is a great example of a song which helps the album stick together: the soloing is excellent but not masturbatory, the disconcerting drums provide a solid foundation for the guitars, and the quick rhythm changes keep the tune interesting. Really, though, the best thing about the last third or so of the album is that it fits into the structure of Soul » Earth » Sun as a whole - a cohesive unit whose positives far outweigh its downsides. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Solterra haven't attracted the attention this release should have caused. They're a band who will obtain much of their future fans through word of mouth rather than a lackluster Bandcamp setup that favors the already-famous over up-and-coming groups. Whatever attention Solterra do receive, though, is well-deserved - their music is absolutely worthwhile.

Facebook/Bandcamp (this album is a free download)

1. Spanish Disco
2. Horseteeth
3. Delayed Reaction
4. Spanish Beaches
5. Hailing Stars
6. Grass Roots
7. Autumn Chill
8. Lounging
9. Airborne
10. Sold To Wolves
11. Lighthouses
12. Twisted
13. Affluenza

No comments:

Post a Comment