Before Drive helped catapult Cliff Martinez to wider, Gosling-fuelled recognition, the former Captain
Beefheart and Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer had already done a pretty brilliant line of cinematic
soundtracks, including Traffic and NARC. A decade on, Solaris remains his masterpiece; a haunting, space
odyssey that weaves its way amongst the psychodrama and synthetic memories of Chris Kelvin. Using a
symphonic orchestra to help blow out the nebula panorama, it’s a dynamic that gives ‘Can I Sit Next To
You’ its Apollo-eqsue gravitas, but the real beauty lies in the steel drums that permeate the score.
Finding their darker side, Martinez plays on the minimal and understated, allowing ‘Don’t Blow It’ to bloom into low
frequency life with a warmth and resonance that 74 contrasts to the cold, black void of space. Elsewhere, the
all-sensory ambience of ‘First Sleep’ and ‘Will She Come Back’ only serve to pull you further into a timeless
soundtrack of fragmented introspection. Timeless.
There’s a distinct shift in the general feel of the music on ‘Back To Land’, and this ostensibly
pertains to the album’s title and is no doubt partly down to a change in geography – Wooden
Shjips are no longer a San Francisco based gang of dropouts, but a group homed in the “lush
climates” of Oregon. It’s made their jams less celestial, warped and meandering, not that they
ever lose sight of their minimalist psych core, the opening title track’s echo and fuzz instilling
everything that follows it. From the expansive urgency of ‘In The Roses’ to the soporific
languidness of ‘These Shadows’, each song here retains a sense of purpose, none too short, and
none too prolonged to outstay its welcome.
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