ALBUM REVIEW: Our Solar System’s Vårt Solsystem

OSS_Press_photoOur Solar System describe themselves as “a floating crowd of people, where everyone who wants to be part of creating within these cosmic frames is welcome.” That’s about as specific as they get, but we do know the newly formed Swedish music collective includes ten musicians hailing from other Swedish bands like Dungen and Life on Earth!. Their debut album, released Oct. 29 on NYC label Beyond Beyond is Beyond, is a compelling piece of concept art, composed around the artists’ thoughts and feelings about—you guessed it—our solar system. Vårt Solsystem is a pretty short album, with the ten tracks (each representing a planet, but also including the asteroid belt and Pluto) clocking in at a little over 45 minutes long.

The prerequisite with Vårt Solsystem, which was recorded live over the span of two nights in Stockholm, is to listen to it all the way through with no interruptions. All of the tracks lead seamlessly into one another, creating the sense that this is all one whirlwind journey through space—some kind of quick guided tour that stops at each planet for photo ops and bathroom breaks. The first track (and the first stop on our tour), “Merkurius,” bursts open like the big bang itself, spilling out a frenzied blend of flute, bass, drums, and keyboard effects (to name a few of the main players) that quickly coagulate into a fast-paced rhythm perfect for take off.

“Venus” has a very interstellar sound, stripped down but volatile, tranquil and suspenseful at the same time, which I would think is a pretty accurate portrayal of what traveling through space might feel like. We then come to “Jorden”—Earth—which is the shortest track on the record, comprised solely of an amalgam of voices, some speaking emphatically (“JUST LEAVE!”) and others softly singing (“Are you lonesome tonight…”). The two minutes of poetic white noise give you just enough time to picture our little Earth as if from afar and wonder what each of its billions of inhabitants are doing at that exact moment.

According to their bio, Our Solar System perform their shows “in identical outfits adorned with planetary symbols to highlight the concept’s power over the individual.” That sounds pretty zany but once you get into this album, you begin to realize that the “concept’s power” is for real. For me, the moment of realization came right after “Jorden” and before “Mars,” a chaotic and heavy concoction with a slight Jimi Hendrix tincture. The five-minute-long track comes to an off-putting end, though, as cooing voices become a little frightened and then become high pitched, panicked shrieks. Mars sounds like a straight up scary planet, which is made more apparent when contrasted with the subsequent, minimalist, and quintessentially alien-sounding track, “Asteroidbältet.”

Next are the two longest tracks, “Jupiter” and “Saturnus.” The former is a bass heavy, hazy number—appropriate for a planet that’s perpetually cloudy and tempestuous. “Saturnus,” on the other hand, begins seductively, with a smooth, female voice ooh-ing and aah-ing, but as the song progresses the voice takes on a weary quality and the instrumentals become frantic and overwhelming.

The trip continues with “Uranus,” a very Sigur Ros-esque, melancholy affair replete with wailing violins, subdued electric guitar, and a celestial choir of female voices. This leads into “Neptunus,” which first lulls you into a sense of happy serenity, as if you’re floating through a stream of stars, before picking up into a ‘90s alt-rock jam along the lines of Yo La Tengo (except with some weird, psychedelic chanting thrown in for good measure).

The last three minutes are reserved for Pluto, but they’re really just a rather vacant outtro with a few extraterrestrial sound effects. It serves its purpose, though, of making a smooth transition back to reality, kind of like when a hypnotist tells his subject that they will wake up at the snap of his fingers, feeling oddly calm and refreshed. You might come out of Vårt Solsystem in a similar, subtle daze, but only if you take the time to delve into the album and commit yourself to the ride. I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

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