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One of the most anticipated artist albums from one of the scenes biggest innovators has finally landed. 'Touchstone' is another defining moment for a dance music producer who continues to push the boundaries further and further...

We've been very excited about this album from the first announcement that it would be dropping this month. The history that Solarstone has within the electronic arena is very well documented and anyone picking a favourite from the archives would surely pick a Solarstone one. Weather is be the unquestionable epic ‘Seven Cities’ or the emotional flow of ‘Solarcoaster’ the early records from Solarstone were, and still are, some of the finest music ever created. In recent years the Solarstone project has been in the hands of just one man, the immensely talented Rich Mowatt. Solarstone is very much all his and the freedom it gives him to push the boundaries of sound with Solarstone return outstanding results. The result in this day of age is Solarstone is not just trance; it’s much more expandable than just one genre and takes inspiration from all forms of dance music. This album is an example of that in every way and as a collective is the finest work Solarstone has ever created. ‘Touchstone’ follows on from the last artist album ‘Rain Stars Eternal’ but drives things further and experiments with new sounds, which has resulted in a very fresh sounding album that should not be pigeonholed to one style but hailed for being a fusion of many with exceptional results.

RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!

TRACKLIST

01. Is There Anyone Out There
02. Ultraviolet
03. Night Signals
04. Touchstone
05. Electric Love
06. Intravenous
07. Twisted Wing
08. Slowmotion
09. The Best Way To Make Your Dreams Come True Is To Wake Up
10. Zeitgeist
11. The Last Defeat (Part Two)
12. There's A Universe

You may have read in our interview with Rich that this album was all about experimentation to try something new but still keep the Solarstone sound relevant to its history. Over the course of the album I think you will find a nice mixture between the new, unexpected and hauntingly familiar sound of old, which jumps in just a time where you begin to think this may not be Solarstone. The 'cinematic' atmosphere that Rich talked about within this album is right at the very title track 'Touchstone'. It's a record that captures so much emotion with classic Solarstone strings and an underlining guitar chord that flutters from start to finish adding immense depth to the track. You might even use the word balearic for it as the beats are very traditionally instrumental and strong and the strings are just classic Solarstone through and through.

The vocal element is very much alive with a few tracks from this album and with each the music touches on a different mood. Take the male vocals from Bill Mcgruddy in the opening track 'Is There Anyone Out There', which is a moody progressive track with delicate piano keys layered into the background and contrast the mood you get with the vocals from Bill again in 'There's A Universe' which is a down tempo ballad in a sense. Rich himself contributed to the vocals with that track along with Bill, the layered backing vocals do indeed morph into one and you would be hard to pick out who sung what. In a recent interview Rich says if you listen very carefully you can here the phone ringing in the background, he must have forgot to take if off the hook when recording. I've not come across it...yet, maybe the ring tone seems in with the music in a way you don’t really notice.

If there were anyone who could conjour up a sweet and delicuis melody and just about put it over any number of beat arrangements it would be Solarstone. Ultraviolet is just one of those tracks where the melodies take hold you you. Bright and full of fruity flavour as the name of the track suggest is how I would put this one. The breaks in here add to that mood and a harmonic female vocal is wipspered along with the bright melody. For the track following Night Signals you can feel a little bit of 80's synth influence with the sound, only its not an upbeat mood but avery down tempo one thats light at the same time with a 'Depeche Mode' style flavour to it. Julie Scott's vocals touch up the moody element with the tone being a little deeper and dark.

Electric Love is a single that has already been released and the first that Rich has taken from Touchstone for a single. Bill Mcgruddy is the man who puts the vocals to this, with a mixture of flowing rhythms and robotic pads. This is how uplifting trance should sound in the ears of Solarstone, agree or not, but the result here is one that has come out trumps for me. The piano keys on the breakdown, dreamy sweeps and atmospheric builds that bubble up to unleash the main vocal and melodies are ones that have been blended together perfectly.


The thing that sets this album aside from many others is I could just talk about each track on its entirety, but it’s an album that has been thought through as a whole entity. There is a flow with it that has been very well laid down and no more evident that what follows after Electric Love with the Pink Floyd influenced ‘Intravenous’. Rich is a deep admirer, as are many fans of Pink Floyd who as a collective were pioneers that many artists today look for inspiration from. It’s all about the sublime guitar that’s cutting through this deeply chilled record and you can feel an engrossing mood building throughout. It breaks down the euphoria from Electric Love and takes you on a different journey but not one that heads into darker waters for the follow on into Twisted Wing brightens up the mood. Who would have thought a little bit of de-paced Drum & Bass would slip into a Solarstone track but that’s how it plays out here. Julie Scott’s vocals here are put on top of a very orchestral string and delicate piano keys. I really liked the flow of things with this, it pushes up the mood and has a lot of things going on without any sounding out of place or overpowering the other.

Slowmotion may have a sound you will instantly recognise as Rich teamed with Orkidea for this, and the Orkidea influence is very evident right from the start. It’s got his style of bass line and percussion but with keys and melody from Solarstone that fit together effortlessly. The vocal effect is very evident in here with a French injected flavour drove that really does go well with the music and adds a hook line to it, not that you would need one with the addictive bass line bubbling away. The Best Way To Make Your Dreams Come True Is Wake Up is another one which Rich has put his vocals to. Aside from having a very true title his vocal in here is very strong. The Solarstone flavour is full on here with an epic guitar string adding a very dreamy feel to the whole record; it almost for me has a touch of 80’s synth pop about it, which I do like.

The final two tracks on this epic journey of triumphant experimentation for Solarstone could not be more different apart. Zeitgeist is another collaboration with Orkidea and similar to their early collaboration on the album, the use of a foreign vocal here just adds more depth to the sound. The whole track is just buzzing with energy and is one of the most frantic on the album, especially when the melodies take a break for a brief moment and begin to build back up with robotic effected layers and sweeps. You may remember the 'Last Defeat' from his Rain Stars Eternal and at the time just wondered why he called it 'Part One'. Well, to clear it up, here is Part Two and it follows along the same dramatic chilled piece of down tempo music as the first. This time it’s a host of sunset driven guitar chords and soft keys. If there were a cinematic element in this album, and there are a few, this would be one that stands out. I'm sure many would depicted a classic film for why, but for me the guitar chord captured the dejected look of Maverick in Top Gun as he tosses away Goose's navy tags. It’s full of different sounds though, with a touching vocal that brings harmony and buzzing FX set along with a deep dark under tone. I’m not usually one for chilled, but you can’t help but enjoy this.

Conclusion:
As a middle east TV comic character touring exploring America once said, this album is a 'great success'. It's a landmark for Solarstone, an artist LP that flirts with different flavours and doesn’t get a slap in the face of disapproval. Is it trance, house, breaks or progressive? No, it’s electronic dance music as its best that should not be pigeonholed to restrict the freedom of expression Rich has delivered into this stunning work. We can only await the next single from this and the remixes to come from it! For now, just enjoy this one, I certainly did!

© Solarstone

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Label:
Solaris

Genre:
Various

Release date:
-

Rating:
9

User Rating:
9

Related links Related Links
http://solarstonetouchstone.com
http://www.solarstone.co.uk
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