As Solid opens its gates, the music takes a single step forward before lifting off. A nascent, endlessly-echoing piano joins a grounded bass – the only part of the music that touches the ground at all – and an airy, washed-out progression enters, too, blossoming into something like a spring breeze. Swirling in light, yogurt-like textures and a playground spirit, sustaining itself and imbued with a fulfilling light, ‘Stones’ is the kindest of openers from Poland’s ambient duo, Bojanek & Michalowski.
Things open up even more as the music begins to shape itself, resembling something like a mystical temple which reveals itself to only a select few. The electric guitar bends the atmosphere, shaping it by way of sonic architecture into a towering figure composed out of monolithic distortion and frayed melodies; a statue carving out the face of a God. The guitar rises slowly, gaining momentum as a rolling wave will as it approaches the shore before reaching the point of no return. It then breaks itself, collapsing like the dusty, sand-strewn stone that it is, an ancient rock that can no longer stand. This is where the track’s power lies: in its breaking. The distortion climbs, morphing into the indiscernible roaring of insectile static. It both washes and stains.
The music rises up to titanic heights, and this is indicative of the track naming – monoliths, pillars, statues, sculptures. Even the greatest masterpiece must begin with a single stroke, and each journey must begin with a single step. Likewise, the opening note is the alpha and the omega, the first stone at the base of this perfectly-aligned pyramid; habitually repeating, but turning silence into sound and a Sahara drought into an overflowing oasis. At some level, the music is burning in a spell of torturous heat. Temperature-wise,Solid summons up the merciless spike of July or August, but it’s a dry heat, and not a humid, shirt-sticking suffocation.
These pillars stand tall and proud. Even during the clashing of tribal drums, the music remains ambient and expansive enough, despite the dog-lead of repetition. But it acts both ways: one person may think of the bass as a restraint, but the bassline can also be a guide, a map back to camp via the predictability of its looping phrase. Popular music is built on anticipation, but it exists in ambient, too – usually in the form of traditional song, with examples being the vocal-heavy music of Julianna Barwick or Alicia Merz. This anticipation and release, this question and answer, can also be found in a loop, albeit lacking a proper resolution because of its repetition. Solid is energetic ambient, the kind that makes you feel alive instead of dosing it up on sleeping pills. Altitude is everywhere in the record. The flight attendant on ‘Figures’ asks passengers to put their seat belts on as the descent begins, but the reverb-soaked, cloud-wispy guitar chords are more like fluttering feathers or falling autumn leaves after the death of summer, while Jacaszek’s remix glides through cut-up pads and skimmers over soft and thin beats.
Have a nice flight…