Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review: Solar Fields - Until We Meet The Sky

Also Known As: "Solar Fields goes a bit shoegaze". I suppose it had to happen eventually - the poster boy of Ultimae Records has explored just about every direction of psychedelic ambient in a highly prolific career over the last decade, even taking time out to make a brilliant trance album with 2007's Earth Shine. Sadly, Until We Meet The Sky just sounds a little conventional to me, perhaps because I've had to plough through an awful lot of this stuff recently. Even the name - Until We Meet The Sky - sounds quite generic in a shoegazey, post-rocky ambient way. The collective, inclusive plural, the obligatory mention of sky/landscapes and the present tense all combine to evoke those standard shoegaze values of vastness, humanity and vague hopefulness. To pick another such album from one of my Spotify playlists, compare it with Iambic's last album Under These Stars We'll Sleep Again. See what I mean?

Now, you didn't come here to read a very flimsy stylistic analysis of album titles, but what I'm trying to point out is that this feels like a pretty unimaginative album from Solar Fields. Like I said - he's done just about everything else so far, but hopefully this is just an experiment because I would prefer more development of his grand, spacious, "panoramic" sound rather than a lot of tracks consisting of maudlin piano noodlings and crackly timbres.

With that said, this guy is still a master and even if the building blocks of this album are over-familiar, he pieces together a pretty damn good structure, working up from a low-key opening up to some real journey tracks such as Last Step In Vacuum and a suitably grand finale in the self-explanatory Epilogue. This is definitely a cut above the host of similar albums I've heard like this recently, but at the same time it feels lazy and forgiving simply to slap another 8/10 onto it. I don't actually think this is as good as the other Ultimae albums from this year, and coming from Solar Fields it's disappointing, which inevitably leads to slightly unfair estimations. Structuralism, and all that. Also, he does suffer a little bit from Ulrich Schnauss syndrome here, whereby the music comes a little too overblown and melodramatic in places. That has always been lurking in the background of Solar Fields' music, but usually it's constrained and the grandness is more sonic and spatial, whereas there are a couple of moments here where he cuts loose emotionally.

So yeah... if you really love Ulrich Schnauss, Lowercase Noises and all that lot and can't get enough of that sound, this is the album for you. Also, if you're just getting into that sound, the clich├ęs won't bother you because you're still in the honeymoon phase where everything is fresh and new and exciting. It ain't exactly my thing, though, good as it is.

Genre: Shoegaze/ambient
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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