2011, the year that Eric Estornel reinvented himself musically in the guise of Maceo Plex. In that same year he released his first LP under the alias, having evolved out of his previous stage name, Maetrik. Life Index was released under Damian Lazarus’ Crosstown Rebels label that year. Over the years since Maceo plex, Estornel began his highly acclaimed label Ellum. Yet still fans’ ears haven’t been graced with an album by the man known as Maceo Plex; Until now. After much anticipation, fans of the Barcelona based mastermind behind tracks such as ‘Conjure Dreams’ and ‘Solar Detroit’, finally releases his 11 track LP entitled ‘Solar’.
In his November 2015 essential mix, as Pete Tong was presenting Maceo Plex’s return, he mentioned this album would be released in early 2016. Over two years, fans laid in wait for the release of this album. ‘Solar’ is nothing like you’d imagine. It’s a break from the norm in the current world of dance music. Powerful, emotional, nothing short of heart breaking, nor is it the dark and typical sound bolstered by Estornel. It is an album as beautiful as it is experimental in its nature. In summary, it could be described as trans-formative, an auditory metamorphosis of the great Maceo Plex. The album christens Estornel’s new label Lone Romantic, set to release tracks on the experimental side of the spectrum. It has been an interesting journey listening to this album.
‘Solar’ is a masterpiece in dedication to and named after Estornel’s two year old son. It draws upon inspiration from Estornel’s own personal life and life as a new father. Rarely are there tracks that deserve such a worthy place as being the intro track, but ‘Sparks Of Life’ is the definition of perfection. Its ambient sound and slow crescendo captivate you. Therefore, cementing the tone and emotion for the album. ‘Polygon Pulse’ echoes the foundation set by ‘Sparks of life’ and introduces a superfluous falsetto while in collaboration with house and techno artist DNCN.
Low bass sets in with ‘Indigo’ featuring singer-songwriter Jono Mcleery complimenting the track with a soulful voice and hitting you with grand emotion. Estornel notes in an interview with Billboard, that “It wasn’t as important to me any more to travel as much or do as many gigs or to have a hit record”. This is possibly the premise to the heart breaking fourth track ‘The Separation’; A loathing of separation from son and wife Christine Mooneyhan (now Estornel) of Odd Parents to clarify.
‘Eternal 808’ sets a new pace, futuristic sounding and groovy. In collaboration with DNCN once more, the track includes vocals that make you feel as if you were floating through a dream as it winds down through and removes drum patterns. Futurism and science fiction are topics that seem to be an interest to Estornel. It’s apparent with ‘Kepler’s Journey’ which sets a new pace yet again, a track filled with breaks. Yet another track that transforms into a chilled out auditory journey through violins and vocal samples. It’s such an ambient atmosphere that this track creates, perhaps something to meditate to? DNCN appears yet again in ‘Solar Wind’ which begins with a sample of what sounds like wind blowing into a recording device then is taken over by a twangy melody and vocals throughout.
‘Wash Away My Tears’ is the only track on the album relating to something different altogether. In the same interview with Billboard magazine, Estornel states that the track deals about a former lover, the highs and lows of that “bad relationship”. Ergo, the song takes on heart wrenching new meaning. It ties into a topic that practically anyone can relate to, the tribulations of love and loss.
‘The Tesseract’ is taken off his recent EP of the same name. A very science fiction related title, and a very interesting take that swings back to his darker style. I had the pleasure of sitting down to review this EP and it was very… ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ like. Shameless plug, you can view my thoughts on the EP in general and title track here.
We reach the final two tracks of this highly experimental, ambient, striking album. The penultimate track ‘Lucid Dreamer’, as with the trend of the other songs is properly titled. The layering developing within the track takes you away. The atmosphere created is the perfect song to carry you off into bliss. A proper name due to synth work and steady, down-tempo pace and minimalist structure, slightly different from the previous few tracks; If you have ever tried to lucid dream, you’d know of the little things you experience through it. The paralysis, the random jerks, in and out of dreams, etc. This is precisely what this track translates to while maintaining this structure and deserving of its title.
Finally, we approach the end of the line. A ‘Swan Dive’ , a cool down to end this masterpiece. An adagio in sound and pace, a slow finale. To note: Very experimental, very peculiar with the haunting vocals and futuristic little samples in the background. An orchestra of string instruments followed by an ominous vocal sample give this album a seal as grand and satisfying as its intro track ‘Sparks of Life’. In conclusion we essentially come around full circle via crescendo into decrescendo.
This album encapsulates the philosophy that “less is more”. Experimental music is usually very abstract in comparison to the rest of the world of music. Therefore the songs in this album grasp meaning in ways that seem arduous to explain; All the while the tracks encompass elements of what Maceo Plex is famous for which are his dark driven dance hits. Only if you listen and read to the words uttered by Maceo Plex and if you are a father will you absorb the enormous spectrum of meaning laid out with this album. For this highly anticipated masterpiece we thank you, Eric Estornel, and a happy belated Father’s Day.
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