Track X Track: Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In
One of the best albums Ragged Words has come across this year, Solar Bears' debut She Was Coloured In, hits the virtual and indie-store shelves next Monday, September 20. To whet your appetite just as much as the many fine MP3s that the Irish duo have dropped from the album over the past weeks, Solo Bear John Kowalski, who chatted to Ragged Words in July and detailed his life in records for us last month, has written an exclusive track-by-track to the record.
1. Forest Of Fountains
One of the first tracks we made together. I wanted to build a song around a gated guitar sound. We added parts and Rian adapted a riff I had, then programmed the bass breakdown. The outro was written as a comedown. One version had a three minute prog element which we cut out to streamline everything. The sample is Jack Nicholson from a film called "The Passeneger".
2. Children Of The Times
I was working out a melody on the keyboard when Rian stopped me and said that is a new song. I went home and worked out the percussion. Rian added the repetitive bassline. The vocal line was put in for narrative. The actual title of the track is from the introduction to "Leaves Of Grass" by Walt Whitman. The writer described other poets next to Whitman as Children Of The Times. There would have been more vocoder on the album had we been able to get it to work on our Novation synth. Loosely influenced by a band called Letherette who have endless groove.
3. Twin Stars
Kind of dystopian but ending in wonderment. I had a track idea based around a militant beat. Rian wrote the soaring synth opening. I sang a vocal harmony which Rian got down on the keyboard and he added the ascending line straight after. The song develops into arpeggiation and then doubles towards the end. We were really happy when this one note came out as a result in the finale. The title is to do with being linked with someone and also has a science fiction connotation.
4. She Was Coloured In
We sampled a scale of guitar and morphed it for the opening riff. I wanted a repeating beat and bassline to weave the other sections through. Rian came up with the guitar hook and we tried a few things before coming to the string arrangement which was used. The title is for a girl named Abbey.
5. Head Supernova
This one happened extemely quickly where we just traded melodies and Rian fleshed it out with synth pads. Many people liken it to Eno and Aphex Twin. Hard for me to tell. I thought it was more like Twin Peaks which we are both obsessed with. We definitely wanted to have an ambient track to break up the rest of the material we had at that point.
6. Crystalline (Be Again)
The song started out with a basic keyboard part which Rian wrote the guitar over. We held off on the drums as long as possible to have the most impact. The bassline is one of my favourite things on the record. When we overdubbed it with the tape machine it sounded really full and heavy. The sequencing was written a few days later which I brought down. I felt like trying a disco influence out and I suppose it is why people mention the 70s and 80s when they listen to us. That and the sound design.
Cub came about from a simple idea and simple parts. The guitar Rian played on it was literally hanging apart. Listening to Primal Scream and Death In Vegas made me enamoured with horn sections which is why we close on one after building up to it with a distorted synth wall.
8. Hidden Lake
One of the songs that went on a tangent on its own. Rian was playing a part really fast to put up certain effect but the slide he had was jagged which resulted in this high pitched tone that was a total fluke. There are reversed chimes and a basic tribal beat along with a Paul McCartney style bassline. I had a synth part which turned into an something resembling a tin drum. The harmonics were altered when we taped it.
9. The Quiet Planet
Science fiction films are a big thing for both Rian and I so the title is a combination of The Quiet Earth and Fantastic Planet from France. I would say Fantastic Planet is probably my favourite film of all time. We wanted to do an 80s electro number and I had a riff on the laptop which I gave to Rian to rework. He added the synth lines for the middle section. The finale is another simple idea and again we had a guitar part we took out to make it as lean as possible.
There have been a few comments comparing it to Vangelis. We used repetetition as a basis for the melodies. The guitar reinforces the synth line which is actually a saxophone scale which we filtered and sampled. The title is down to the effects of the sun. I kind of think of old sports programmes on the BBC when I listen back to it now.
Direct homage to Ian Curtis. When we tried to add parts to it nothing would stick. I like the fact it is stripped down and raw. Vignettes on a record can be just as effective as grand statements.
12. Primary Colours At The Back Of My Mind
I remember listening to a Richard Fearless interview for KCRW years back when he said there was a dark window at the back of his mind which made me laugh. Primary colours have a bigger response from some people than others. A straight forward rhythm and a modified guitar part. Vincent Gallo is one of the reasons why I am into the mellotron flute so much. The strings bring it back a decade or three. The street ambiance sampled is from New York City.
Dolls is more than likely the most symphonic thing we have done. The layering at the end is very deliberate. The choir we employed has a strange poignant aspect. The drums were introduced late to keep the focus on the other elements.
14. Neon Colony
A contender for album closer. It was written in two stages. The slide guitar is one of the things I am happiest with from our output. It was done by Rian off the top of his head and the immediacy is there with each visit. The title itself is about a community or commune who live on a separate timeline in the woods. Each family is a different neon colour.
15. Perpetual Meadow
One song that changes for me. I get varied imagery when I hear it now as opposed from when we made it. The gravitas is from the piano chords and the simplicity. It is an expansive summary in a way and we wanted to use the handheld recorder being stopped as a farewell. You can hear the button being pushed. The name of the track is related to Native America.