Mat Playford – Solar (Awesome Soundwave)
It’s clear before listening to the first beat that there will be something ‘spacey’ about ‘Solar’ ‘space’ the boundless universe we live in, not the Ibiza superclub where Mat was resident.
The tracklisting is littered with astronomic terminology, one track named ‘Kic 8462852‘ after a star in the Cygnus constellation. Mat is clearly a space enthusiast, his imagination shining through in this original journey of cosmic beats.
‘Solar’ starts off with a gentle introduction ‘Celestial Mechanic’ conjuring up images of an interstellar astronaut floating serenely around a space station. A wide array of synths is balanced by a cinematic string section, the entire album could be the background to a sci-fi thriller.
‘Lucid Crossrhodes’ picks up the pace with a traditional kick drum, a burbling bass and driving synths. The string section returns with a rousing crescendo to balance the synthetic sounds from the future, leading into ‘Ephermis’ that follows in the same vein. A solid driving pulse is reminiscent of 80’s basslines emerging from the original disco era and is accompanied by a synth lead and soundscape from a future space disco. Whilst danceable, ‘Solar’ deviates from a traditional DJ-friendly pattern of dance music and starts to feel more like an electronic album that needs an uninterrupted listen on a long journey rather than in a club.
The journey through space continues with synths galore in ‘Amalgaest’, a fast-paced driving track, another night-time scene from the same sci-fi movie. ‘Ptolmey’ changes things up, with a darker breakbeat intro and a dirty bassline full of energy. ‘Kic 8462852’ ramps up the intensity and feels like an early industrial techno track, with almost dissonant chords that wouldn’t have been out of place at a warehouse party in the early 90s.
‘3 Free Body Problem’, a nod to the sci-fi novel ‘The Three-Body Problem’ starts with some blissful arpeggios emerging from the darkness; it’s daybreak in the ‘Solar’ LP. A brief welcome interlude, but it’s not long before the kickdrum returns, and with it a happier energy, still tantalisingly close to a major chord, as the distant world awakes. ‘Nymphameium’ continues with an acid bassline and arpeggios dancing over the high notes like high pitched computer beeps.
The final two tracks on the album are collaborations with Stevie “Bertie” Burton, the first of which, ‘Tomorrow’s World’, is more traditional dancefloor material at a comparatively long almost 8 minutes, whilst not quite sticking with a traditional pattern. A heavy squelchy synth lead dances around throughout, slightly lighter than the rest of the album, breaking into a beautiful string section that provides an uplifting contrast to the rest of the album. ‘Last Perihelion’ finishes off the album, an epilogue with lush euphoric strings and synths completing the cinematic journey on a real high.
‘Solar’ is a very original and admirable piece of work, perhaps even a concept album. It’s not a casual listening affair, or one for the faint-hearted. This is an album where the sum of the parts make up the whole, those parts are better heard in context. It’s a serious listen from start to finish, very different in sound but nevertheless comparable in experience to Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planet‘, ‘Solar‘ is a 21st century synth-heavy galactic experience, full of intense electronic energy.
There is no doubt Mat Playford is a talent and he’s taking you on a journey, you’d be advised to strap in for the ride.