While the often superb Fahrenheit Project compilations best define France's Ultimae Records overall, Magnus Birgersson aka Solar Fields is one of the individual artists who stands out ...his specialty is the panoramic ambient trance and new-school spacemusic the label is famous for, and there's a picturesque quality to his music that is distinctively his own.
country of origin:
Ambient trance/techno, spacemusic, environmental, pstytrance
00's - 10's
- Blue Moon Station (2003, Ultimae)
- Leaving Home (2005, Ultimae)
Reviewed by Mike G
While the often superb Fahrenheit Project compilations (2001-2007) best define France's Ultimae Records overall, Magnus Birgersson aka Solar Fields is one of the individual artists who stands out alongside Cell/Connect.Ohm, Carbon Based Lifeforms and Asura. His specialty is the panoramic ambient trance and new-school spacemusic the label is famous for, and there's a picturesque quality to his music that is distinctively his own.
Stylistically, his second and third albums Blue Moon Station (2003) and Leaving Home (2005) cover between them his entire range of downtempo sounds and they remain the best Solar Fields releases to date.
Blue Moon Station is his the more dynamic of the two. Opening with the echoing synth chords and tentative bass notes of "Confusion Illusion" the album peaks in tempo about half way through with the urgent pulse of "Infection 268", a piece of straight-ahead 4/4 deep progressive slowtrance. There's also moments of tribal percussion, gorgeous jangling guitars ("Elevator Sunshine Girl") and lots of multi-layered synth lines weaving in and out of the mix. The environmental abstraction of the album's second half is surprising, and engaging too if you let go of any expectations of what an Ultimae release should sound like. "Planet Zoo", for example, perfectly captures eerie stillness of a forest punctuated by flashes of sound and movement.
Leaving Home initially unimpressed me on its release in 2005, seemingly too airy and insubstantial. But it's not; it's just that the album is not the expected follow-up to Blue Moon Station and it may demand more listens to appreciate the subtle, quiet depths of its first half. On these early tracks the rhythms often skim and flicker across the surface of the music rather than anchor it. Further in, the music acquires a more defined structure and Birgersson conjures two flat-out masterpieces. "Air Song" is a profoundly soulful piece of electronica. Snatches of guitar, voice, sitar and piano embellish a brilliantly simple 4-note bass phrase, and swirling around it's lumbering rhythm is a sense of space as infinite as a cloudless blue sky. This segues straight into "Cocoon Moon (Glastonbury mix)", an extraordinary piece of musical voodoo that marries ambient trance to a slow, hypnotic rock beat. Harmonically rich, full of space and with a touch of darkness, this track particularly rewards playback at loud volume.
If you connect with these two albums, you'll be ready to explore the rest of his now substantial catalogue. This includes some excursions into progressive psytrance for the dancefloor such as Earthshine (2007) and Random Friday (2012), a style at which he proves to be a rather dab hand.