Lao Tzu said, “Silence is a source of great strength.” Listening to Solace Road’s new album “Silence Within”, I understand Tzu perfectly. It is not about the absence of sounds or talk, but what the silence means. “Silence Within” is an outstanding and thought-provoking release that exists in the largely undiscovered crossing point between dark ambient, New Age music, and soundscapes. Solace Road has delivered a rock-solid listening experience that both amazes and astounds. It leaves the silence in its wake both expressive and charged. Highly recommended!
In the mid-1980s, when New Age music became mainstream, its sound was refined and commercialized. It became pretty, meditative, and accessible. Still, it also lost that experimental edge it had in the 1970s, as heard in the “Tubular Bells” intro, Jordan De La Sierra’s masterwork “Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose” (1977), and many other albums of the time. Recently we are seeing a rediscovery of this sound, like Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s “Luminary” – and now we also have Solace Road’s “Silence Within” too. I believe this development will strengthen the genre since “pretty and uncomplicated” music is clearly not for everyone – and it does not meet the stressed-out mind on its own terms.
In Transient Skies
As indicated by the cover artwork, “Solace Road” is a quite dark album. But for what it lacks in the color department, it takes back in sheer power. The opening “In Transient Skies” is a thunderous piece. Before our inner eye, we can see the untamed forces of nature, the ever-changing skies, move about, and evolve. It is world-class sound design to my ears. There are so many levels of textures, so much movement. Stereo effects are used to perfection, literally surrounding the listener. If you ever wondered how it is inside a budding storm, listen to “In Transient Skies”. It is a fabulous album opener!
How the previous track fades into the piano piece called “Over Time’s Eclipse” is nothing short of masterful. These two opposites – the heavy synths and textures and the gentle piano – shouldn’t fade this nicely, but they do. “Over Time’s Eclipse” is a sad yet wise and resilient piece. The ambient melody twists and turns and is suddenly interrupted by a synth stinger – yet it continues as nothing has happened. There is a beautiful flute section in the middle and some eerie whooshing sounds too. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself:
Time is an important keyword here. The next piece is called “Forever…” The harmonious piano melody evolves as a background vocal synth joins in. Lower keys and darker colors are suddenly dominating. Perhaps it illustrates how we dream of something lasting forever, suddenly realizing that the only constant is change?
My favorite piece on “Silence Within” is “The Flowing Sentient”. It starts gently, reminding a bit of Andreas Vollenweider’s harp music – but you will soon understand that Solice Road is venturing into a territory that Vollenweider never would go. There are eerie sound effects and background strings here that changes the whole atmosphere. In the end, there is even a storm building. Who said harp music had to be pretty? It is a fascinating piece. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for the replay button.
Light Turns Grey
There is a thoughtful, perhaps even meditative, quality to Solace Road’s music. The seven and a half minutes long “Light Turns Grey” is nothing short of brilliant as it crisscrosses its way into your mind and heart. What I find most interesting is how you never know exactly where it is going and what atmosphere awaits you behind the next corner. The icy sounding synth is a nice effect.
We are diving even deeper into the psyche; it is impossible not to be amazed by the complex “Inmost Realm”. Is it a scary place? Or is it a symbol that we, in a sense, have gone too deep? You decide. The voyage into the unknown continues on “Through a Pensive Spiral”. The sound design is magnificent. Safely on the other side, “In Deep Thought” gives time to reflect on what we have just learned and experienced.
The title track closes the album. Notice the tranquil piano and how the background hissing sound seems to interfere constantly. I believe it is a symbol of how inner silence is never complete. As long as we live, we have to deal with the weight of existence. We all have a cross to bear.
In conclusion: Solace Road has delivered a remarkable and very different album. It probably has a much larger appeal than many “soft and pretty” meditation albums since it deals with inner struggles in a way that feels authentic and heartfelt. The production quality, mixing and mastering are done to perfection. “Silence Within” demands something from you. But as soon as you have picked up its frequency, you will start receiving the comforting message Solice Road is sending out; Don’t worry; You’ll be ok. What you are feeling is simply proving that you are human.
Score: 95/100 – See our scoring policy.
The album is available on Bandcamp. Also, check out the Solace Road YouTube Channel.