Cam Butler is a seasoned and experienced multi instrumentalist and producer who is also the co-writer of songs with the legendary Ron S Peno (Died Pretty) in the fabulous Ron S Peno and the Superstitions which he co-founded. Their album ‘Do The Understanding’ was one of my albums of the year last year. In addition, Butler is also a rather brilliant composer and he has just released a shimmering album entitled ‘Solar’ that showcases his musical prowess.
I always say instrumental tracks always need to work harder to capture our attention: to paint pictures and evoke emotions without words. ‘Solar’ does just that: a collection of sonic vignettes that are immersive and enthralling.
My ninth album, ‘Solar’, is my latest and most up-to-date work in this vein. I chose the name ‘Solar’ as it is a grand title with many connotations – the sun, solar power, a positive life force. The album is built around one main musical theme that re-occurs throughout the record. This theme is developed and presented in various musical settings across the album’s eight tracks. These tracks range in sound from lush, synthetic soundscapes to live pieces featuring a string quartet and also a fourteen-piece string orchestra, combined with electric guitar, bass and percussion. I aimed for all the pieces on ‘Solar’ to be exciting and enthralling in equal measure.
Opening title track ‘Solar (the Beginning)’ starts off with arpeggiated, sparkling guitars that shimmer and glisten with a restless movement – shuffling permissions add to a mediterranean bustle over indelible melodies. It is really a mesmerising track: calming and resolute with an intensity.
In contrast, ‘Cold Summer’ is bold and dramatic: swirling strings creating sonic disturbances, tangible and imperious, leavened by brief interludes of crying strings. It has a cinematic thrust: widescreen, vibrant with endless horizons that canter and trot with a bestial wildness.
‘Solar Part 2’ eases back on the reins – a synth bed washes through the speakers with an euphoric swell that emerges underneath. ‘We Need Help’ has an urgency about it with stabbing strings and a hyperkinetic percussion. Again, the strings form a vocal equivalency: eloquent, melancholy. This motif reappears in ‘In Memory’ which seems to be an elegy – a pause at midpoint for reflection, elegant and sombre.
‘Cold Summer Part 2’ is propelled by jungle drums and thunder, picking up the pace again, torn asunder by the visceral string arrangements like a cloud of ominous clouds rent by lightning.
Final tracks complete the circle – ‘Solar’ and ‘Solar (The End)’. Guitars gently nudge aside the strings in the opening of the nine minute long ‘Solar’ before the strings develop the expansive story telling – roaming the ether with a deep expression and dramatic sweep. It is a compelling sonic journey that ebbs and flows like a grand trek across a mountain range, like the sound track to a western in many parts, tremolo edged guitars providing the boundaries to each chapter. It is heady stuff, pulse quickening and bold. ‘Solar (The End)’ is an atmospheric exit – an ambient departure.
‘Solar’ takes us on a magnificent sonic journey, from sweeping vistas to thunder and rain, from crystalline guitars to string arrangements that are weeping and melancholy one minute and that thunder and rage the next.
The album is out now through Melbourne label, Kasumuen Records, and you can download through the link below (remembering that it is Bandcamp Friday today – all proceeds go directly to the artist):