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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Solaram - Love & The Sweet Divine

Solaram - Love & The Sweet Divine
2010, Rainbow Quartz

Solaram is a south Philadelphia quintet specializing in dreamy 1960’s folk/rock. Joe Tagg (guitar/vox); Pete Rydberg (guitar/vocals); Shawn Kilroy (guitar/vocals) and J. Laughlin (drums) spin musical webs that would have been perfectly welcome in the Summer of Love. 2010 sees Solaram release their first full length album, Love & The Sweet Divine.

Love & The Sweet Divine is pure 1960's ethereal folk/rock in the vein of The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas or modern purveyors Mammoth Life. Eschewing grand variances in sound, Solaram makes Love & The Sweet Divine a study in musical consistency that will either delight or confound listeners. Essentially, if you're a fan of one of the bands above and/or this particular style of dreamy folk/pop then you'll love Solaram. If you're not then Love & The Sweet Divine is likely to be a test of endurance. Solaram builds their vocals in layers; lead vocalist Tagg rarely is exposed without voices around him. This both works to hide vocal/pitch imperfections as well as build the dreamy atmosphere of the album. Solaram works to keep things simple, with cyclic arrangements build around simple progressions that are layered in enough sound to keep them from sounding pro forma. The opening track "When She Falls" is a prime example, built around a short, repetitive progression that forms the backbone of the song. "Precious Time" has a bit more life to it; catchy enough to serve as a single to AOR, classic rock and adult contemporary radio if Solaram so chooses. "My Back Life" brings a bit of Beatles feel into the mix while also dabbling in a feedback-prone Americana that sounds rough and uncut.

"Dead Pool" has a pure 1960's pop sway to it that will intrigue some listeners, wrapping a solid melody in layers of sound that are pleasant as a whole but a bit stark if you pick them apart. Tagg seems to struggle with matching the scale in the arrangement at times, and there's a core of dissonance in the middle of outward harmonies that reflects the vaguely disturbing message. "All I Want" takes the dreamy pop up a notch, applying a bit of edge in a song about finding peace in rock n roll. It's one of the more angst-filled songs on the disc in spite of the dream unsettled feel of the album as a whole. "Time Wait For Me" culls up the angst of living in uncertain times where there are more questions than answers to them; it's one of the more memorable melodies on the album; the layered sound surrounding a peaceful middle with rough and discomfiting bits of ambience. Solaram closes with "Fur C-Ann", a meandering acoustic-guitar instrumental with only bare framing from the rest of the band. It's a delicate and beautiful coda that contrasts with much of what has come before.

Solaram's Love & The Sweet Divine is going to have its detractors, but there's no denying the band has managed to create a complete and compelling song cycle. The deeply reserved but angst-filled style to the songwriting and the ethereal 1960's folk/pop ambience of Love & The Sweet Divine may be more sonically oriented toward Baby Boomers and those who would follow in their footsteps, but the angst and unsettled nature of the songwriting is up-to-the-minute and fresh. Love & The Sweet Divine is a great album to sink into and get acquainted with.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Solaram at & The Sweet Divine drops on September 7, 2010.  You can order the album from as a CD or Download

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