Solarstone “—-” [Black Hole Recordings]

This eclectic offering of styles and production is like a multi-faceted but much more varied version of his popular “Pure Trance Radio” podcasts. It’s always refreshing to hear a release from an artist whose live and streamed work is so highly-acclaimed rather than grossly over-hyped and over-worshiped (wild guesses, anyone?). Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

Standouts: “I Found You” (Gisseppe Ottaviani Remix), “Leap of Faith”, “Untitled Love”, “A State of Mind” (Extended Mix) and  “Cafune”


Solarstone & Meredith Call – I Found You (extended mix) (6:49) [dropped on ASOT 809]

Solid club beat intro with interesting x files sequence. Build is solid if not exceptional. Propulsive at 1:38 into smooth, soaring strings and synths and a well-thought out chord progression. This track is clearly stripped of all manner of trickery and nuance so that it will be a solid remix opp. Call’s voice is a solid mezzo (so prevalent in trance) with a good mix into the higher-reaches of her range. I originally did not care for this track, but it has grown on me somewhat. The emphasis on Call’s vocal harmonies and the rock-oriented progressions are nice and captivating, but ultimately lacks the flair and prodigious nature that is usually associated with SS. The track has a fluid and languorous progression that is somehow down-tempo and trance. All it needed was that extra something and it would have been a truly great collaboration.

Solarstone & Meredith Call – I Found You (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix) [7:03]  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Master remixer Ottaviani starts the track in fine peak-time fashion, recalling such last decade greats as Flutlicht and Nish. This remix is, of course, what the original mix needed, but is it own in its own right. The pacing of the vocals (with verses unheard in the extended) make this truly a solid, euphoric offering. The atmospheric build complements Call’s belting vocals perfectly.
The synth stab pre-drop is classic modern vintage with an almost symphonic feel, culminating in a true and beautifully-done drop. So incredibly beautiful. Hard, layered, wonderfully-tricky rhythmic back-builds highlight the body of the track with bursts of  mind-space. Ending groove is a perfect segue for spinning as well. Ottaviani transcends this remix!

Leap of Faith (OM) [7:02] RECOMMENDED

Intergalactic ambiance introduces the track in a Goldie meets Jarre vein. Fucking ear candy! Eclectic noise and effects give way into a minimal but throbbing pounder. The lead hook is very simple but augmented digitally in wonderful ways. Liftoff achieved at 3:01. Solarstone’s classic down tempo flourishes echo like analog satellites in digital orbit in the extraordinary build. The build loops as it builds then backdrops into an excellent dance track that transports one beyond the Van Allen Belt and into the solar system. Compositionally brilliant, the track is what Solarstone is known for: space for the mind and body.

Eclipse [6:03]

Esoteric chill-out with an almost cool jazz feel. I imagine Samuel Barber would have done something like this, if he was  alive now and fully digital. The intro is a bit long, when contrasted to the body of the tune, which falls into that category that I call “spacetech”: not as hard as proper tech or trance, but too insistent to be true ambient offshoot of either: a strange and sometimes
compelling middle ground that relies more on atmospherics and psychedelic headroom than actual floor propulsion. I’d love to hear  a faster remix of this, but one that would retain the track’s galactic reach. Experimental and not without its benefits, but truly an album track.

Solarstone & R.A.B.B.I.I. {Revolutions Are Best Before Initial Inception} – Untitled Love [5:21]   RECOMMENDED

It’s rare and refreshing to hear a track where both artists’ feel and vibe are clearly delineated: Solarstone’s ambiance and atmospherics and the blissful sheen of the Swedish synth-pop of R.A.B.B.I.I. In particular is Johanna Berglund’s vocal, which glides over the mid tempo synth-pop track like the best anime opening themes. In fact, RABBII’s carefree delivery and vibe nearly outshines Solarstone himself on the track. This collaboration is unique and totally fresh. Not everyone will fully get into its charms, but those who do will be rewarded with a track that resonates with innocence and effervescence.

Solarstone with Alex Karweit – Choosing His Angels [4:42]

Karweit’s original dates back to 2009, and is soul-searching pop/rock. The remix is more than just a rehash, though, with Solarstone’s mellow progressive trance serving as an undercurrent for Alex’s yearning lyrics and soaring vocal range. The result is a kind of transcendent EDM that is both remix and fresh groove. The track’s running time and overall feel crosses genre boundaries, accessible to more than just devotees of EDM and modern pop. The build into the ending chorus is especially
beautiful. Great tune!

Solarstone with Orkidea – Slowmotion IV [6:44]

Fourth in what seems to be an ongoing series, this installment of “Slowmotion” is highlighted by a propulsive, no-nonsense intro that builds expertly and inexorably into a truly epic build that is as symphonic as it is interstellar. Catchy keyboards highlight and move the atmospherics as if the shade of Pink Floyd had been summoned. The resulting drop is simple but comes off as
anticlimactic. Interestingly, the body of the track builds variations on the preceding build, layer by layer as it recycles then soars into a chordally-similar but even more epic build, then reverse drops into a bookend of the track’s beginning groove. While not as sonically enthralling as some of the album’s earlier tracks, the tune is notable for its eclectic format and classically-driven composition.

Solarston- A State of Mind (Extended Mix) [10:52]                      ESSENTIAL

At nearly eleven minutes in length, this track is longer than many other tracks in any electronic dance genre, and for it to be trance is a feat in and of itself. I have listened to this epic track many times over the past few days and have tried to find a way to describe it without lapsing into blithering fanboy-ism, but the truth is that I cannot. Solarstone’s expert universal ambiance glides effortlessly into a pulsating and undulating bass line, propelling the rhythms and loops with an ease that is rare.

Further on, layers of keys and sequenced motifs glide like phantom sirens over the diamond-hard beat. Perhaps the track’s most amazing feature is the seemingly endless addition and subtraction of layers and effects, reducing to near-minimalism then building with almost classical compositional grace and fire. This track is not about builds, drops and hooks: it is an all-encompassing experience. It is nearly impossible for me not to compare it to the epic scope of Goldie’s “Mother” (in terms of complexity), the Phalanx remix of Alphazone’s “Revelation” (in terms of precision and perfection) or, in terms of passion, even Ola Gjeilo’s haunting and beautiful “Dark Night of the Soul.” A masterpiece from start to finish, I have to give it my highest rating. If you don’t buy the album, for god’s sake, buy this mix. It’s truly one-in-a-billion.

Cafune [8:01]                   RECOMMENDED

The coda to this varied and sometimes genius offering is perhaps its most aggressive and brooding. The intro build is digital darkness that breaks loose into a funky, almost Big Beat rhythm jam. The minor-key progression on top lends it gentler tones then gives way to a looped section drenched in darkness. The build is gorgeous: dark symphonic strings framed by a slightly distorted, heavily reverbed sample. The drop is funky progressive trance, something I have rarely heard pulled off correctly and with such fluidity, esp. with the odd jazzy hook and underlying ambient washes. It ends just as it seems it is in a second build, with a piece of that extra something that “I Found You” did not have.

” —-” finds Solarstone continuing to explore the boundaries of progressive trance, trance proper, and ambient in previously unknown or unexpected terrain: experimentalism, darker progressive, synthpop, chillout. Especially noteworthy is his collaborative work with talented lesser-known acts such as R.A.B.B.I.I., Meredith Call, his new work with Alex Karweit as well as his ongoing work with Orkidea, all the while retaining his own sound without sacrifice or compromise. The album is def worth it, Ottaviani’s remix of “I Found You” is exceptional, and the extended mix of “A State of Mind” is simply one of the most amazing tracks of its kind I have heard in years.

Meredith Call
Giuseppe Ottaviani
Alex Karweit

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