Solar Bears interview: “Completely spontaneous.”

14.09.10, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

Aptly adapting their name from Andrei Tarkovsky’s haunting 1972 sci-fi epic Solaris, Plant Mu’s recent-ish signing SOLAR BEARS are bringing progressive cinematic soundscapes to the label. With recent output including the likes of Kuedo’s ‘Dream Sequence’ and Slugabed’s ‘Ultra Heat Treated EP’ (download Dummy Mix 16 // Slugabed), it’s refreshing to see the London based electronic music stalwart branching out from its comfort zone, impressive as it is. SOLAR BEARS upcoming debut album ‘She Was Coloured In’ is a beautifully crafted pastiche of the cinematic scores of yester-year. (Listen to Neon Colony on the right.) With influences as wide-ranging as Ennio Morricone, George Delarue and the Beatles, the Irish two-piece of John Kowalski and Rian Trench have crafted an album that is as visually stimulating as it is aurally.

I caught with John recently and it was reassuring to hear that Planet Mu is living up to it’s grass-roots style of production: “Mike [Paradinas] was extremely influential in putting together the track listing. The reason the album has such good flow is because he worked on multiple variables of that; he wouldn’t let it go,” he told me. “He just seemed to kind of get where we were coming from, the references that were throughout. He has been really supportive.” That said, ‘She Was Coloured In’ comes from two undeniably gifted musical minds, able to allude to and to mould the sounds that have made cinema such a stimulating artistic medium. The Quiet Planet is a perfect example of this: the track bounces Girogio Moroder-style rolling synth patches off Human League leads and sits comfortably somewhere between headphone music and progressive disco. Although it does the album something of an injustice to attempt to classify it like this, the mesh of references, recurring melodies and evolving timbral themes begs to be recognised.

“It was completely natural,” said John on the making of ‘She Was Coloured In’. “It was completely off the cuff and off the top of our heads. We got a lot of first ideas down as soon as possible and then tried to enhance them. But any time we tried to re-record material it didn’t have the same kind of spark. So pretty much every track is completely spontaneous.” That economic approach to, and respect for, sound is something else they seem to have soaked up from cinema: “With Moroder, for instance in Scarface, some of the pieces are quite minimal but they are very effective,” commented John. Having resisted the temptation to over-fill, the artistry of ‘She Was Coloured In’ is in their ability to paint a vivid landscape with a relatively minimal palette; creating resonant textures from very little.

‘She Was Coloured In’ by Solar Bears is out on Planet Mu (buy it here) on Monday 20 September.

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