Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris is a remarkable feat of science fiction. It’s ridiculously long, but its edge of your dream stuff, deeply psychological, where it’s impossible not to drift inside its hypnotic spell. A large part of its hypnosis is the electronic score by Russian composer composer Eduard Artemiev, which centred around variations on Bach’s “Chorale Prelude in F-Minor, recorded on the ANS synthesizer, where Artemiev drafted sine waves on glass plates for the machine to interpret. The results are striking; it’s a place where baroque meets noise. It’s such a singular score, with peculiar drones, strange metallic pulses, synthetic filter sweeps. It’s an odd, slightly menacing and disembodied work that feels exploratory, yet still fits incredibly well with the film and sounds like nothing that has preceded it.
Which makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to mess with it. It’s like rescoring Eraserhead or Dead Man, two films with great, incredibly idiosyncratic scores. Why mess with them? They’re already perfect. It would be fascinating to know Martin’s thought process here. Though I suppose if you want to challenge yourself why not rescore a score that is already pretty amazing.
Martin is of course best know via his bass heavy workouts as The Bug, or neo electro soul as King Midas Sound. Last year he put out In Blue a kind of bass music torch song album with Dis Fig, though during lockdown, though he has been ridiculously productive releasing numerous bandcamp albums that are almost impossible to keep up with (see his five volume Frequencies For Leaving Earth series). His deft touch with electronic sounds is nearly unparalleled, and whilst the aforementioned projects get most of the attention in recent times he has been quietly been releasing music under his own name, the first being the remarkable Sirens (Room40) a beautiful intense, quite minimal work of sound art based around the birth of his son.
Return to Solaris feels like a homage more than anything else – to both the visuals and the score. It’s a remarkably quiet/loud ambient album, with momentous shuddering bass and elements of noise yet these incredibly gentle quiet moments. It’s music that builds, utilises space and is very conscious of dynamics. This feels like music that exists under the hood, it’s easy to listen to this at low volume, see it as a peaceful ambient album, but if you turn it up there’s so much going on with such a level control that its awe inspiring.
In comparison with Artemiev, Martin’s drones have more warmth; they’re more melodic, more refined. Where Artemiev used Bach’s melancholic chorale, Martin opts more warm semi musical pulses, slow oscillations and washes of delayed sound that reverberate in the air and decay gently over time. Like Artemiev he mixes melody with noise, yet not as overtly, using minimal amounts of notes, yet eliciting a ridiculous amount emotion. His use of delays and filters as a compositional device is simply gorgeous, referencing elements of both ambient music, and Edition 1, his highly atmospheric work with King Midas Sound and Fennesz from 2015. This is score on the edge of sound design (and sound art); it’s music that carries weight with it. It’s haunting, stark yet also at times strangely reassuring. This is inward music. There’s space for quiet contemplation, and perhaps more importantly space for Tarkovsky’s remarkable images, as like the film itself it’s music that rewards letting go and allowing yourself to just drift inside.