Album Review :
Solia Tera - Diamonds, Dirt, Iron Pyrite, And A Pearl Of Great Prize
Band: Solia Tera
Title: Diamonds, Dirt, Iron Pyrite, And A Pearl of Great Prize
Release Date: January 16th, 2010
Review By: Alex S
- Xylem and Phloem
- On the Philosophy of Science and Vice Versa
- A Strand of Three Chords is Not Easily Broken
- So You Mean I Don’t Have to Chase the Wind Anymore?!
- The Problem Was Never Being Too Far Away, But, In Thinking We Had To Move Closer
Solia Tera’s latest release Diamonds, Dirt, Iron Pyrite, And A Pearl of Great Prize is the follow-up to 2009’s A Flammarion Woodcut. The 5-track EP once again finds the band feeling out many genres and establishing a signature sound all their own, which they’ve dubbed “experi-pop”.
Generally speaking, Diamonds is a more accessible album than its predecessor. There are moments in several songs that are strikingly good — I’d even go so far as to say that they are radio friendly. This is not to say that it does not have its moments of being a true indie stalwart — it does, especially “So You Mean I Don’t Have to Chase the Wind Anymore?!” That track notwithstanding, this feels like a more complete record than the previous EP. The group has grown together, creating an album with more cohesion and unity. It won’t take you as many listens to get into and will stick with you longer, but it may take many more listens to fully appreciate, especially considering the length of the songs.
“Xylem and Phloem” is the first track off Diamonds. It kicks off much in the same way Flammarion did: upbeat, this time with an almost Shins-like haunting coo and a driving snare from Corey Ciralsky, former touring drummer for Burden of a Day. The horns have returned, and harken back once again to Chris Noyes and Robert Gomez’s days in Send Out Scuds, this time less jazzy and more like their old band.
“Xylem” is easily the most fun song on the album. I’d even venture to say it reminds me a bit of Pomegranates — the band, not the fruit, but they are delicious nonetheless.
Lyrically, Noyes keeps with the nature motifs and had me searching for a dictionary. Xylem and phloem are both parts of the vascular system in plants that distributes water and nutrients. Noyes has a diverse talent in using spiritual analogies veiled as descriptions of somewhat mundane natural organic life. He is able to take something so banal and humdrum and turn it into wild, vivid imagery. For example:
“We’ll plant our plans in the ground and announce to our eyes that,
‘for now we will cling to a mustard seed kingdom
where those who cant speak say more than those who can
and the deaf sing lyrics about the paintings of the blind!'”
Again, it may seem cryptic at times, but his lyrics are interesting enough that they leave you wanting to crack the code.
“On the Philosophy of Science and Vice Versa” showcases the technical side of Solia Tera, and has strong Mew-like similarities, especially Derek Larson’s piano arrangement not even half a minute into the song. This section lets way to what might be their most radio-friendly section of any song they have. It even reminded me a bit of Ben Folds Five. Truly likable stuff. Noyes spouts, “I see communication as a cloud that carries rain from one body of water to another / It’s never the fullness of the ocean as a whole, but if you care enough, you will know it is there.”
“A Strand of Three Chords is Not Easily Broken” is another dead giveaway for a Mew song, though decidedly less electronic. It also features the first appearance of banjo in any Solia Tera song, a welcome addition to the already wide array of instrumentation used. The banjo adds a new element to the song, a refrain from the atmosphere to give it a Southern-ish feel without being too down home, or dressed up in overalls and a straw hat. I even felt flashes of Sunny Day Real Estate at parts. “So is it err to say my pain is not just mine to feel / or that the You in every cell of mine weeps by my side?” is a solid line as well.
The track most unlike the rest of the EP is “So You Mean I Don’t Have to Chase the Wind Anymore?!” At nearly 8 minutes long, it’s a sprawling song that kicks off with an alarm clock. This will ring out negative connotations for a lot of people (what with having to wake up to it every morning, the rooster crow of suburban life), but is quite symbolic, in that it signifies the beginning of a new day. Definitely shades of Edison Glass for the first 3 minutes or so of the song. What’s unique about the tune is that it has distinct, multi-faceted sections, each piece locking together puzzle-like to create a larger “experience” of a song, not disjointed by any means.
For much of the middle piece, the band chants “We die, and all we earn is not enough to halt this / All the logic, leaves me alone, and brings me no peace.” The song concludes with Noyes softly singing “When You said, ‘come and rest’, I felt it leap inside / the part of me that was dead.” Noyes, though wordy at times, has certainly worked at his craft, creating a thoughtful and meaningful series of deeply spiritual poems disguised as songs.
“The Problem Was Never Being Too Far Away, But, In Thinking We Had To Move Closer” is the closer on Diamonds and is actually a recycled Send Out Scuds song (which, coincidentally or not, feels the most “ska” out of any Solia Tera song), though slightly modified. It’s perhaps the most heartfelt song on the EP, with the predominant chant of “My all falls short” concluding the album, a fitting end.
As with the previous release, it is not without some minor flaws. Noyes’ vocals and the group chants at times sound tinny (even moreso than Flammarion did), sounding something like being recorded in a room encased by aluminum foil. The production is a step-up from Flammarion. Overall though, the band feels like they have matured quite a bit in less than a year.
Overall: Solia Tera do not suffer from the sophomore slump, presenting a thoughtful and unique second EP.
Recommended if you like: Mew, having your brain tickled, chewy spiritual nuggets of knowledge and truth.