a closer listen

Solo Collective ~ Part One

Solo Collective isn’t quite large enough to be called a supergroup, but it’s definitely a super trio.  Combining the talents of Dictaphone’s Alex Stolze (violin), Nils Frahm collaborator Anne Müller (cello) and The War On Drugs’ Sebastian Reynolds (piano), these versatile musicians demonstrate a great affinity for each other’s work, as well as a sense of humility, each taking turns in the spotlight.  “Don’t try to be someone else”, sings the narrator of the album’s only vocal track.  None do, and their individual personalities are responsible for the short album’s great variety.  Never is this more apparent than in the track and video “Holy Island”, dedicated to Reynolds’ mother Sheenagh, lost to him only last year.  As the composition rides the piano to a surprising tonal conclusion, the video switches its perspective as well.

The other tracks focus on strings, with occasional layers of chimes (the meditative “Silbersee”) and electronics.  Stolze’s “Cell to Cell” has already inspired a Qrauer remix, which may open the trio to new territories, but we still prefer the original.  The track grows from a light hover, with even-tempo notes joined by counterpart before the melodies set in and take the song aloft.  One of the layers even sounds like theremin, an otherworldly addition that presages the track’s percussion and foghorn notes.  In the final thirty seconds, the flight flirts with landing, sailing just above the ground without flapping its wings.  Then there’s “Ascension”, whose opening moments sound like mechanical flight, an aircraft ascending into the stratosphere in honor of the song’s title.  The extended glissandos offer a sense of tonal euphoria, even when they begin to descend.

Combine these associations, and the album becomes one of vertical movement.  Whether physical, mechanical or spiritual, the subjects end up higher than they began, in the heavens or in the final track, in heaven itself.  And while all but Sheenagh eventually return to land, the final image is an upward gaze: spirits and hopes lifted, bolstered by visions of the world to come.  (Richard Allen)

Available here