Band: Solia Tera
Title: A Flammarion Woodcut
Release Date: April 2009
Review By: Alex S
- Germination and Imbibition
- What Crawled Will Fly, and Ice Will Melt!
- A Flammarion Woodcut
- To a Bush on Fire and Not Consumed
Christopher Noyes, former lead singer for the ska band Send Out Scuds, along with SOS multi-instrumentalist Robert Gomez, created Solia Tera out of an impasse in 2008. These things happen. As bands age and progress, their signature sound is bound to evolve in some way. This evolution can be viewed as largely why the greatest albums ever written and recorded even exist, and is necessary for music to progress and get better over time.
It is no secret that the SOS from their inception up through early 2007 was a different band from the late 2007 to 2008 version. Near the end of Noyes’ era as lead vocalist, the style had drastically shifted away from the band’s distinctive ska sound, which had some music journalists and bloggers calling them the next Five Iron Frenzy. Send Out Scuds was being taken in multiple directions, strained at the middle and pulled from opposing sides. When the members could no longer agree on the path best suited for the band, a change of the guard occurred.
Thus, Solia Tera (whose name is ambiguous according to Noyes, with no exact meaning) was born. SOS returned to their ska origins, and Noyes’ new band pushed forth to create a unique style. A Flammarion Woodcut is the debut independently released by the band beginning in April 2009. The EP prominently features ample amounts of glockenspiel and auxiliary percussion, strong drumming from Corey Ciralsky combined with Gomez’s solid bass lines to create a tight rhythm section, and Derek Larson’s piano sections reminiscent of old Mew, as well as gang vocal-like chants from the entirety of the band. This amalgamation works to create a unique sound that may be better suited as the soundtrack for a children’s storybook rather than for the intelligent and mature Christian hipster crowd. Perhaps the best way to describe it would be indie neo-jazz fusion, the band carving out a niche all their own in a tired music sphere.
“Germination and Imbibition” kicks off the record, a track teeming with the sounds of celebration, a festive-sounding, jaunty romp trumpeting the creation (or recreation) of life. Germination, as you may already know, is the process of planting a seed, while imbibition is the process of absorption. This pairing of trying to absorb an ideal, to “grow roots” so to speak, along with the reliance on our Creator to help refine us and being still throughout the whole process, are the themes that are prevalently present for the 18 and a half minute runtime.
Noyes’ lyrics, though wordy and often cryptic in nature, will assuredly leave you with something to chew on long after the last chords ring out. In the first track, lines like “The worst sin I have ever committed / was thinking that I had meaning of my own invention” and “But what would You fit in? I mean I used to “measure” You so well. / Are they outside? Are we inside? / Is there really space in between?” showcase Noyes’ lyrical prowess in deftfully discussing meaty spiritual paradigms.
“What Crawled Will Fly, and Ice Will Melt!” is another upbeat song vaguely reminiscent of a Sigur Rós B-side, highlighted by Austin Quinn’s and Kevin Thomas’ guitar work that feels almost surf rocky at times. The music drops out about halfway through the song, and for a brief moment (due to its intentionally muted tone) makes you feel like you’re under water, perhaps researching new species of sea life on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. A truly organic, fun tune that features more auxiliary percussion at the end. Again Noyes waxes on poetically, the track summing up with:
“Please don’t forget me, like I forget you.
You said that while my faith is wax,
You’re always faithful!”
The title track “A Flammarion Woodcut” continues the trend of auxiliary percussion and group chants. The inclusion of the usage of horns harken back to the founding member’s days in SOS, but are less abrasive. The horns give way to a smooth, almost jazzy bass groove. The portion of the record that was most profound came next: the sounds of trash being thrown on the ground, “laying it all before God” so to speak, against a background of glockenspiel. It’s a great illustration and a peak inside the minds of these talented gentlemen. Noyes pleads, “Oh G-d, I’ve never felt quite this small before / does my cry for reason fall on deaf ears?” To which the song resolves, “But oh sister the chains will he break! For the slave is our brother / and in His eyes there is no disdain! (for us) / and in His name all oppression will cease!”
The ending of the previous song segues nicely into the album’s closer “To a Bush on Fire and Not Consumed”. The track begins with a delicate piano arrangement with flashes of the most recent Cool Hand Luke recordings. Nearing the middle of the song, the sound of erratic typewriters tap out. This leads the conclusion of the piano and finally into a triumphant marching, like the orchestral score to the end of a tear-jerking football movie about redemption and hope.
The album closes with this:
“But you would be the mouth of a nation!
Let your weakness overcome what is strong.
I will be with your words, and teach you what to say”
oh Dad, your grace is my brother, and your love my dearest friend.
This album isn’t for everyone. It’s not even really a matter of “getting it” or “not getting it”. It is, however, most certainly a refreshing departure from the excessive amount of generic heavy music that is running rampant currently. The record does have its fair amount of flaws. The production isn’t bad, but it’s not great either — but no artist gets it 100% right on their first try, especially with a band that is not specific or loyal to a particular genre. The auxiliary percussion isn’t as audibly drastic or noticeable as perhaps it should be. These are simply nitpicky things that thankfully do not detract from the experience as a whole.
Overall: This is a strong debut from a band that could really find success thanks to its own accord, rather than being the “new thing” in a genre that hasn’t really been established yet.
Recommended if you like: (Mostly old) Mew, (mostly new) Sigur Rós, scratching your head while trying to figure out what a flammarion is.