Solkyri has gone all-out with its debut album, and its confidence is contagious. The trio is offering Are You My Brother? on its own and as a deluxe package; the latter includes a signed poster, t-shirt and swag. In addition, Solkyri has enlisted the aid of both a string trio and a brass trio for half of its tracks; on the first and last selections, the string trio expands to a quartet. An Australian tour accompanied the album launch in late spring and early summer. Even the album cover is intriguing, as Old Testament elements are combined with modern flourishes: Noah haunted by the returning raven. In short, the band has done everything right, giving itself the best possible chance to succeed.
But how is the music? It’s very good indeed, and that opener (“His Ghosts Will Invade Puerto Rico”) is the prime example. Beginning with simple glockenspiel, the 14-minute track slowly expands into an anthem, adding strings, synth, guitars and horns along the way. The drums don’t appear until two minutes have gone by ~ in at 2:11, out at 2:53. This allows room for the melodies to sink in, another sign of confidence. Four minutes in, the first major transition arrives, bearing crickets and owls! The tempo quickens, the drums return, and off we go. At 9:55, the song appears to be over, but it picks itself up, dusts itself off, and gets back in the saddle again. It’s the longest song on here, and one of the album’s finest; as a first impression, it couldn’t be stronger. Now that listeners know what the band can do, they’re in for the long haul.
It would be easy to assume that the tracks featuring guest stars are the strongest, but this would do the other tracks a disservice. More often than not, the brass and strings serve a supportive purpose, as the trio is strong enough on its own. As if to circumvent such thoughts, Solkyri jumps immediately into the punchy “Hunter”, which is just about the right length for a single and packs an undeniable power; this time, the glockenspiel is saved for the very end. The middle of the album allows room for experimentation. “With Strawberries Like Dead Men” offers the album’s widest dynamic range, while “Home” includes the alt-inflected vocals of Hannah Cameron. Then it’s a sprint to the end, with three rocking closers, the best of these being the pub-chanting “Threads of an Old Life”, although the best passage found among them is the concluding, contemplative minute of “No, You Are My Better” ~ all strings, pure beauty. With so much going for them, Solkyri cannot fail; their game plan should be a blueprint for all aspiring bands. (Richard Allen)