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
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music world, and festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more