Irish duo Solar Bears came to prominence with their 2010 debut album She Was Coloured In, a collection of highly listenable synth-centred electronic pieces. That their follow up is arriving three years later shows the attention to detail and deliberation that has been invested in its creation. It is the sound of an evolving band keen to grow their sound and incorporate new ideas. Indeed, the title indicates a work of significant scale and reach, and it does not disappoint.
They derive their name from an Andrei Tarkovsky film (Solaris) and it seems particularly apposite on Supermigration, much of it sounding as if it would be well suited to the demands of soundtracking. It’s especially apparent on the soft, pensive interlude You And Me (Subterranean Cycles) or opening short Stasis. It’s also evident on Love Is All which possesses a myriad of influences and likenesses, taking in the melodic lightness of Ghost Box acts such as Belbury Poly and shades of Ennio Morricone (perhaps had he focused more on synths and electronics rather than orchestral music).
This track is followed by The Girl That Played With Light which shows the contrasting nature of the album, having an immediately heavier sound, almost like a more melodic Holy Fuck. The layered, propulsive dynamic is also representative of the more direct approach found on much of Supermigration. It’s also demonstrated on the slightly deteriorated, skewed electronic riff of the Boards Of Canada-esque Cosmic Runner.
The band recently spoke of their love for early Air and although their sound is essentially different, Supermigration does on occasion share the appropriation of pop elements (both vocally and instrumentally) found on those records. Its particularly apt on Our Future Is Underground which features the faltering vocals of Beth Hirsch (they also graced two tracks on Air’s classic Moon Safari). It has more of a live band feel and plays out in glorious, exultant style. It’s a vast, open sound that feels like it should be appreciated in similarly large spaces. Alpha People is another track to benefit from a female vocal while the enveloping retro-futurism of Komplex, along with the celestial female vocal that hovers over the track, briefly imagines a sharper, digitally-driven Röyksopp. They manage to sustain the quality until the close, Happiness Is A Warm Spacestation being propelled by headstrong, mechanized beats and Rainbow Collision lighting up the skies in kaleidoscopic fashion.
Supermigration may lack some of the euphoric moments of their debut album but these have been supplanted by a more rewarding, substantial set of attributes. There’s a greater focus on percussion and vocals and their resulting impact alongside a slight moving away from some of the nostalgia-tinted sounds of their debut. It can feel like engaging, melodic electronic music is becoming harder to come in recent years by but Supermigration is the sound of a band stepping up to the challenge and delivering in confident style.