Our consumption of ‘art’ should achieve two things. First, it should be an immersive experience. Number two, it’s all about escapism. This week my constant need for distraction has been dutifully fulfilled by London duo Tom Kingston and Joe Wilson, better known as Solomon Grey.
Their self-titled album has been a long time coming. In fact, it’s almost a surprise that they’ve even bothered to continue along this route at all, seeing as they’re already making a name for themselves composing music for film and TV. You could call it a distraction, or you could see it as balancing two very distinct disciplines, but Solomon Grey demonstrates both their ability to create some really inspiring and atmospheric orchestral soundscapes and their knack at writing incredibly satisfying synth-pop tunes.
Inside a minute and ten seconds the opener ‘Right Now’ manages to convey much of the albums sonic qualities. It sparkles as it builds and expands, adding layer upon layer while synths reverberate and shine. It’s a hypnotic bubble of a track and it indeed feels like opening sequence to the album itself. There are moments throughout the record that carry that same cinematic feel. Tracks like ‘Epitaph’, mid-album instrumental ‘The Rift’ and album closer ‘Choir To The Wild’ in particular, showcasing lush sounding electo-orchertral instrumentation. Theres a knowing self-awareness here, from a band confident in their craft as soundtrack composers creating a pop album, seamlessly merging the two forms.
Even when we reach the more commercial synth-pop moments on the record such as ‘Sweet 84’, ‘Electric Baby’ and ‘See You There’ the cinematic feel isn’t lost. ‘Sweet 84’ starts with almost horror like synth-strings complete with sound effects of approaching of footsteps, it’s tone twisting and merging into the first verse. Reminiscent of the darker moments from Broken Bells (the James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaboration), this is an infectious track. Funky guitar licks, horns and urgent pounding drums accompany those sparkling, layered synths. ‘Electric Baby’ shifts into RnB territory with a brilliant vocal display and a falsetto James Mercer would be envious of. The track is late-night pop and neon drenched electro, catching Solomon Grey at their most infectious.
As delightful as these pop moments are, the real heart of the album lies in its fusing of classical composition and contemporary, studio based production. It’s a theme that runs through the whole record, never more prominent than in the final track ‘Choir To The Wild’. From solo piano through to crescendo of epic string and pulsing synths, it’s the right balance of classical and contemporary. “The right balance” could in fact be a three word review for the album, never over indulging and always managing to retain that cinematic feel so teasingly set out at the beginning of the record. Solomon Grey clearly understand their craft.
This is a record of shifting ideas and form, seamlessly presented with some of the most beautiful production I’ve heard on a record this year. It’s a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t actually exist, but stick on some headphones, find somewhere quiet and you’ll find yourself completely immersed, picturing a film anyway. This is escapism.
Solomon Grey is out now on Decca Records