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Solar Project - Force Majeure

Solar Project - Force MajeureSolar Project evolved from a band called Solar System (1981-87).  Volker Janacek (drums), Peter Terhoeven (guitars, basses) and Robert Valet (keys, acoustic guitars) released the first Solar Project album in 1990 and Force Majeure in 2004 is their sixth release.

Also featuring musicians Jade (saxophones), Sebastian Jungermann (basses) and Bettina Wirtz (vocals), Force Majeure is a concept album consisting of four tracks, Days of Wrath, Thunderstorm, Force Majeure and War.

First thing to hit you is Bettina’s nasally vocals which, if I wanted to be a tad unkind, could be likened to a cross between those of Tracy Hitchings and Pendragon’s Nick Barrett only sometimes an octave lower.   Days of Wrath has an element of Pendragon together with a Germanic Kraftwerk air about it and whilst it may not be the most popular track on the album, it is the shortest at a little over six minutes and it does fit in well as an intro to the rest.

In contrast, Thunderstorm at 30 minutes is the longest track, and hits the mark with Solar Project’s legendary Pink Floyd feel.  The track is divided into sections registering as tracks 2 to 8 on the CD player and is a real epic with fantastic melodies, riffs and arrangements.  Unless you have a total dislike for Floyd you will be sure to love track 4 with its Wish You Were Here and Animals influences (when I got to this section I replayed track 4 about five times before proceeding with the album).  Rain and thunder sounds together with that Floydian touch risk sending the listener on a premature but pleasant soporific journey.

Force Majeure is, of course, a well-known album by Tangerine Dream and though Pink Floyd influences dominate here, there is a touch of The Dream from their FM and Phaedra periods.  The title track is a 20-minuter and, like Thunderstorm, is divided into sections (tracks 9 to 12).  By this stage of the album, I’m please to tell you that Bettina’s voice is growing on me, albeit slightly.  This time (track 10) the Floydian influence moves to The Wall and while the instrumental (like Run interim moments) plays, soundtracks of speeches by notable and notorious history makers (including Neville Chamberlain and Hitler) waft through, adding to the eeriness and menacing sense.

War has some great sax (not a misspelling) and keyboard sounds, maintaining the Floydian feel with a touch of the Atom Heart Mother in places.

Like most concepts, Force Majeure has to be listened to in its entirety in one go to fully appreciate.  The vocals may be an acquired taste, however, and I wonder if the album would be even better as entirely instrumental.  If you like both Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream yet have no expectations that Solar Project is just a clone of either, you could be onto a winner.  Recommended.

Jem Jedrzejewski

Solar Project



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