Solstice - Light Up

Kev Rowland

I’m not really sure what there is left to say about one of our most iconic and unique progressive rock bands, as for more than 40 years they have been following their own path, guided as always by guitarist Andy Glass. It is strange to think that new album ‘Light Up’ is following on very quickly from ‘Sia”, and with the same line-up, both of which are unusual for Solstice. However, the line-up has been stable for quite some time with only singer Jess Holland not appearing on 2013’s ‘Prophecy’. The artwork is again by Shaun Blake who painted ‘Sia’, and it makes sense to have the same person involved as in many ways this is a continuation of that album, except here with even more of a concentration on the vocals. Musically there is much on here which could be thought of as prog folk as opposed to the neo tag they are often given, with a depth of thought and complex arrangements which contain a great deal of space within.

A violin has always been a keen element of their sound, but here it is used sparingly so that when it comes in it has even more dramatic effect, while the same is also true of Andy’s delicious guitar breaks. When he pushes himself to the fore it changes the direction and momentum of the music, while the rhythm section keeps it tight and allows him room to move. The keyboards are often quite simplistic in comparison, allowing the others to weave the melodies while they often operate as a backdrop. It is nice to see that the album is a “proper” length, i.e. it will fit on one side of TDK-90 tape (if they are still made). Back in the “old days”, 45 minutes was seen as an optimal length for pressing purposes, but the advent of CDs allowed that time to move to 75 or more, meaning some bands overstretched themselves when judicious editing would have been useful, but here we have a distillation of all that is good and wonderful about Solstice. This is refined, enjoyable and pleasant music with a rougher edge when the time is right, always with the focus on the vocals.

I have been fortunate enough to have been sitting with this album for some time, and it really is delicious with wonderful arrangements which invite the listener inside to sit down and rest a while. It is one which repays repeated plays as the more one listens to it the more there is to discover with some gorgeously understated moments from all involved, all ensuring they are doing everything they can to put Jess front and centre. There has been a resurgence in activity from Solstice in recent years, who have also been making live albums available to their fans, and there is no excuse whatsoever for discovering the wonderful music of one of our finest bands. It will be released next year on January 13th through GEP.

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