‘Supermigration’: A career-defining album from Solar Bears

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It’s been worth the wait.

Three years after their excellent debut She Was Coloured In in 2010, Solar Bears are about to release a career-defining album, Supermigration.

Solar Bears is the band name for talented duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench, who have spent the past 18-months at studios in Wicklow, Ireland, working on Supermigration. It’s a long way from their debut recording in a bedroom in Dublin.

The difference is not just in the recording but in the quality and diversity of tracks. The interest in Science-Fiction is still apparent, but rather than the outward urge of space travel, Supermigration is more concerned with inner space and hints at dark, personal narratives that are often analogous with the genre.

I contacted John and Rian with some questions about the new album, Supermigration, and they started-off by explaining the influences on their recording:

John: We were listening to a lot of Eno and forgotten soundtracks which we had discovered on vinyl. Sampling these led to unusual routes for some of the finished songs on the record. It is largely dependent on what happens during a day session or a night session. The seasons played a part also. Often cases it can be something as simple as a string sound.

Rian: Its never a conscious effort to work in a set style, so in a lot of ways, the direction is determined by whatever riff, bassline, drum pattern, texture we start out with. New things definitely filtered through this time. We’d often have Al Green on in the kitchen in between sessions. We researched a lot of recording techniques. Steely Dan records were a constant reference.

Dangerous Minds: What was it like to spend so long in the studio and what was a typical recording day like?

John: It was really positive for me. One thing that did affect the recordings was getting our hands on new gear like a Korg MS-10 which a friend lent us. There were no typical days as I came down to the studio with either an idea intact or nothing at all. Rian had ideas dating back years so we concentrated on them for some of the tracks on the album.

Rian: Typically we’d bring something to the table, and just approach it in our different ways. Usually took a day to write the song, and then several days of tweaking. It was a great experience to be able to think about the tracks for long periods out of the studio. Writing time was interspersed between touring in Europe, so we had the advantage of talking about song structures and sounds etc while away.

Dangerous MInds: What is the back story with the title, Supermigration?

Rian: We were initially considering it as a track title, but then realized it kind of summed up the experiences and process surrounding the record. Its marries the journey the album takes itself. We always want to go somewhere we haven’t been before.

There is a pattern we discovered after the writing process that hadn’t been considered. We tried to vary the style and execution as much as possible, and then try to shape a very abstract narrative gluing it all together. If the composition is ready in our minds, it should allow you to invent your own story.
 

Cosmic Runner’—Solar Bears, from ‘Supermigration’
 
John: It is far more about inner space than anything external. The name itself was the only thing that made sense with the collection of songs we created together. We traveled a lot during the making of the record, seeing all that foreign scenery fed into the expansive sound of the LP somehow. My main ambition is to become more skilled as a music maker.

Looking back on the song titles there emerged a kind of science fiction psychedelic short story, starting with “Stasis” and ending with “Rainbow Collision”. We feel very unproven, that’s why we continue to work as hard as possible. Taking any of this for granted would be incredibly foolish. The label believed in us again and we love to work with all of them. Their advice and experience is invaluable to our group.

DM: What are the film references to Supermigration? And would you like to write a film score?

John: The White Ribbon, La Jetee, Gandahar and The Fountain. There is a little known Buddhist fable from Korea called Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring that has a unique soundtrack. It contains acoustics and electronics and has a very glacial sound to it. That would be one that I would like to re-score.

Rian: One of the things we want to do next is write a film score. We would love to work closely with a director on their project, try to elevate the images. Sometimes we feel that we are already scoring when writing together.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Solar Bears: Soundtrack to the Future


 
More from Solar Bears, plus a film on the making of ‘Supermigration’, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Exclusive Premiere: Solar Bears remix ‘California Poppy’ by David Douglas

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Dangerous Minds exclusively premieres the Solar Bears’ superb remix of David Douglas’ “California Poppy”.

Since their stunningly brilliant debut She Was Coloured In, John Kowalski and Rian Trench, aka Solar Bears, have been exceedingly busy, as John told DM:

‘Rian has been recording other bands for the past year including I Am The Cosmos and we have been travelling a great deal.

‘Most recently, we have recorded our second album called Supermigration at Rian’s studio in Wicklow. It features 13 brand new songs and is more hard hitting than our debut, mainly because of playing live more. We have been experimenting with new styles and treatments.

What’s next?

‘Getting a release date and continuing to write to see what else we can come up with. You can hear tracks off the second lp in our recent Boiler Room set.

Here’s the premiere of Solar Bears remix for David Douglas’ “California Poppy”. Douglas released Royal Horticultural Society an ‘impeccably, produced and arranged’ EP last month, with the ‘hazy sun-drenched’ “California Poppy” as opener. David Douglas shares his name with the 19th century Scottish horticulturist, who traveled across North America collecting and itemizing seeds from plants and trees. This is superb music for the head, inspired by the famed botanist, and brilliantly remixed by Solar Bears, and will be available from September.

Check here for music by David Douglas and here for Solar Bears.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Soundtrack to the Future: The wonderful world of Solar Bears


 
Video for David Douglas’ ‘California Poppy’ and bonus Solar Bears track, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Soundtrack to the future: the wonderful world of Solar Bears

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John Kowalski and Rian Trench formed Solar Bears in 2009, after they met at college. Their connection was a liking for world cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, and science fiction. Their influences came from electronica, Death in Vegas, Primal Scream, and film composers like John Barry, John Carpenter, Ennio Morricone, George Delerue, Vangelis and Gorgio Moroder. All of which filters thru their work and tells you everything you need to know about their sound. Listening to Solar Bears is like listening to a beautiful and compelling soundtrack to a brilliant, cult sci-fi film:

...a mix of programming, acoustic instruments, synths and vintage tape machines. The freeform approach of their writing and recording lends itself to varying tones and colours. Tracks often have differing sound sources from each other creating a unique musical experience.

In September 2010, Solar Bears released their debut album She Was Coloured In. It was impressive stuff, a fabulous mix of sci-fi pop and pulsating soundscapes, which lead Obscure Sound to write:

...the duo are clearly masters of believable soundscapes, and their elaborate songwriting and production really go a long way in separating Solar Bears from the masses of atmospherically-dependent electronic artists.

While the Pitchfork said:

..the very best stuff on She Was Coloured In manages to touch all the bases, using the low-key moments for atmosphere and juicing them up with stylish genre tweaks. “She Was Coloured In” pulses with a progged-out, psychedelic energy, while “Crystalline (Be Again)” is a delicate club jam that oozes late-era New Order. Highlight “Dolls” ambitiously drags bleary, wistful keys and strings through an epically aggressive trip-hop suite, followed by an anthemic final act. In these moments, She Was Coloured In really pops; the mysteries of the universe as imagined in a pulp novel seem to come into focus.

It’s a fine album and Solar Bears are well worth getting to know, so here for your edification and delight are a selection of their tracks, some of which have been married to clips from the films The Planet of the Apes, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain and Fantastic Planet. Enjoy.
 

 
Bonus clips form Solar Bears, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion