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Kevin Richard Martin - Return to Solaris

Kevin Richard Martin Return to Solaris coverA few years back Kevin Richard Martin released Sirens an album soundtracking the events and experiences surrounding the birth of his child. Return to Solaris, however, is his first commissioned soundtrack, and his first soundtrack to a film. Invited by Belgium's Vooruit Arts Centre in May 2020 to compose a new score for a film, Kevin Martin chose Andrei Tarkovsky's classic 1972 movie Solaris. The result is Return to Solaris and it is an apt selection as the films themes of psychological turmoil set within a technological dystopia are a perfect fit for Martin's drones, vibrations and tones.

As The Bug and King Midas Sound Kevin Martin has been distorting and contorting soundscapes out of of dub, hip-hop, ragga and dancehall and as Return to Solaris proves, Kevin Richard Martin is adept at creating an atmosphere and he captures the desolation and vast expanse of space in deep shimmering alien drone emitting eerie wavering harmonies on 'Opening Credits (Theme for Kris)'. If this is a sort of deep space ambient, then the following 'Solaris' is harsher and more industrialised. Veering between mechanical drill and atmo-hiss and shrouded in heaving shudders and repeated echoing reverberations it's obvious that Martin is soundtracking the orbiting space station. The heaving 'Concrete Tunnels' does likewise. Massive sound shudders pulverise, forming cyclical structures which becomes almost rhythmic, crushing onwards accompanied by lighter quavering synths. Vaguely reminiscent of the dense, heavy outpourings of Techno Animal, 'Concrete Tunnels' bypasses the technological for an immense sound that delves into psychological terrain in its dark, oppressive and claustrophobic structure.

Recently Kevin Martin has been unleashing numerous recordings steeped in drones but many years back he curated the compilation Isolationism, which documented a strain of inward looking ambient music which sounded "as paranoic as it does panoramic". That description could fit much of Return to Solaris but is especially true of 'Hari', a subtle track of hushed spacey ambience that begins so faint it's almost not there at all. Edged onward by bass tones and the reverberating clatter of metal and bowls, acting as a portent of dread chiming into the blackened void.

Eduard Artemyev's original score used synthscapes reconfiguring the classical works of Bach, and in order to achieve a sense of authenticity Martin utilised archive analogue equipment and even a vintage Pulsar 23 drum machine to sculpt these eerie dreamlike moods, which aren't without their beguiling moments. A lightness of touch is brought to 'Weightlessness' as it unfurls in echoing melodic chime over hushed ambient drift before its broken by an assemblage of grainy textures and heaving heavy shifts and shudders. It contrasts to the harsher 'Resurrection' where a series of squalling, gestating tones are sucked up into a noise vortex.

Where Return to Solaris really comes into its own is when Martin gravitates towards a more tender, human element. 'Together Again' casts a series of disembodied tones and sparse synth chime over fluttering engine rev, while 'In Love With A Ghost' reprises the reverberations of 'Solaris' amidst arcs of billowing doomy distortion. Unhurried and filled with dread it hauntingly evokes a spectral presence. Like Sirens where Martin wrestled with suffering, trauma and the potential loss of partner, mother and child there's an intimacy and poignancy on these tracks that's hard to miss and best exemplified by 'Wife Or Mother' where a vaporous hiss creates an ocean of sound impregnated with a warm fluttering womblike sensation. Martin proves to be a deft composer wringing an emotional pull out of his palette of heavy drones and ominous tones.

Rescoring Solaris is a heady task but Kevin Richard Martin more than pulls it off. Nuanced and immense, filled with tension and poignancy, Kevin Richard Martin has created a captivating soundtrack which errs towards emotion over its sterile technological origins. To experience the full effect of its deep drones, otherworldly vibrations and pulses it's worth listening to in one sitting. Released on vinyl and digitally by Phantom Limb Return to Solaris comes highly recommended.