ELECTRONIC DUO SOLOMON GREY RETURN WITH MELANCHOLIC AND POIGNANT SOPHOMORE ALBUM
If you’re a fan of BBC period dramas, chances are you might have heard the entrancing music of Solomon Grey. The duo – consisting of composer Tom Kingston and composer/vocalist Joe Wilson – has written soundtracks for The Casual Vacancy and The Last Post in recent years, had their music synched to film trailers and TV series worldwide and have collaborated with other established artists such as Lane 8 and Dusky. Their epic and unique blend of synth-pop, ambient and classical was enthralling on their 2016 eponymous debut ‘Solomon Grey’, and the band will be hoping the same for their latest effort ‘Human Music’.
‘Human Music’ is an album tinged with poignancy and sadness from the outset. The album was written over the period of time when Joe Wilson’s mother was suffering from a brain tumor; an affliction that ultimately claimed her life via a one-way visit to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. These emotions are channeled through expansive soundscapes, cinematic string arrangements, and Joe Wilson’s haunting and reverberant vocals; creating a rather bleak experience for the listener.
Stand out track ‘Closed Door’ is one of the few cuts from the album that seem to offer some glimmer of hope through the melancholy. Set to a memorable piano riff, Wilson croons ‘Isn’t this amazing?’ as the pizzicato string stabs build into a coda fraught with pounding orchestra drums and bubbling synth arpeggios. The instrumental tracks ‘Clouds’ and ‘Departed’ are also stand-outs, the textures and style being somewhat reminiscent in the former of Muse’s track from their ‘The 2nd Law’ album; ‘Isolated System’.
As beautiful as the album’s composition is, its main downfall is that Joe Wilson’s voice simply doesn’t have the consistent impact it should do throughout. Solomon Grey certainly is at their best when the vocal writing complements and interacts with the instrumentation, which for the most part they nailed on their debut. The slight diversion in the sound they’ve taken for ‘Human Music’ to be heavier on the classical elements though perhaps doesn’t fit Wilson’s voice as well as it should. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments on the album where he truly shines: his performance throughout ‘Gaslight’ is one of the more recognizable ones that come to mind.
Even with the inconsistencies, Solomon Grey has crafted a body of work which while utterly depressing at points, is full of memorable melodies and textures. Their mix of electronic and classical music is admittedly very niche: but if you’re a fan of artists such as Jon Hopkins, Bonobo, or M83, Solomon Grey’s work wouldn’t be too far off your taste.