Solaris — 1990
(Gong HCD 37310-11, 1990/1996, CD)
Solaris — Marsbéli Krónikák (The Martian Chronicles)
(Gong HCD 17819, 1983/1995, CD)
by Mike Grimes, Published 1997-02-01
At long last, The Gong label has stepped forward and re-released Solaris' The Martian Chronicles and 1990. While both these titles have been previously available on CD, both have been out of print for quite a while, not to mention extremely difficult to find. To make these recent reissues more attractive, each CD set is augmented with not one, but two bonus tracks. Actually, the double CD reissue of 1990 contains the entire contents of the original double-LP plus the two bonus tracks. Since earlier CD versions of this album only offered three of the four sides of the LPs due to the time constraints of fitting everything on one CD, this offering has several "bonus" tracks in a way.
Solaris originally released The Martian Chronicles in 1983, and 1990 in (you guessed it) 1990. Despite its title, the latter album is primarily a compilation of four sessions recorded at different times in the 80s and packaged together. The opening notes of "The Martian Chronicles" illustrate much of what is to follow on that album — a chorus of Moog synthesizers. At times the band has three keyboardists, and all of them staunchly analog! Glides, filter sweeps, sounds ten feet thick... all the joys of analog. The music is all instrumental with a few choral-type exceptions, and the interplay between the flute, guitar, and analog synths is well orchestrated. Each instrument gets its share of the spotlight, and the music is quite diverse. Clearly, there is a strong folk influence, but there's an abundance of spacey synth sounds and rock guitar riffs to augment the ethnic aspect of their sound. The songs can go from sounding like a Brahms Hungarian Dance to the Dr. Who soundtrack to Euro-surf music before the blink of an eye. Imagine space music played in Eastern European scales by Dick Dale! Solaris doesn't play wicked-fast, complex music in complicated time signatures. Their strong point is in their arrangements and ability to create swirling instrumental textures. Their music is more fun than challenging. Like all the best albums, The Martian Chronicles comes complete with a whistle solo.
The 1990 album contains some compositions and performances on par with the tracks from The Martian Chronicles, but it's more varied in quality overall. By the mid to late 80s, Solaris acquired some digital keyboards (Rolands and E-mus it sounds like) and incorporated them into their music. This diversified the band's sound, but perhaps defocused the musical direction of the group too. For example, "Solaris 1990" is a collection of samples of several famous classical music pieces put to a disco drum machine beat. What the...? Both albums contain some great material, but The Martian Chronicles doesn't have the variance in quality that 1990 does, and is surely the "classic" album by the band. Fans of analog synths should pick up both these for the keyboard tones alone.
Related artist(s): Solaris
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more