Manos Milonakis has created an achingly beautiful masterpiece in Sólfar. Recorded in Iceland, the name means Sun Voyager and there’s no better description for this modern classical composition.
Opening with the piano of “The Compass” it starts off quiet and based around a single note but soon envelopes out to evoke wonder and spirit with a string quartet playing some exquisite melodies. It has a timelessness to it and as its so melodic it’s one of those tracks you could listen to repeat for hours and not notice. “Towards the Setting Sun” is more uplifting with huge piano chords and some pitch shifted strings really adding to things. It reminds me of the also Icelandic Amiina with its cute home made orchestra feel. The big drums really add to the adventurous spirit of the whole thing and the track feels epic without the need for a giant orchestra crashing in – almost like a solo mission to the sun. “Ten” is the shortest and most melancholy of the tracks. However even in the more subdued moments its feels more regal and refined than sad. It’s the kind of track where a harpsichord would fit in nicely but the piano and strings – which this album is all about – are so richly intertwined it doesn’t need anything else.
“Quiet Grey” however is all about the drama. Immediately drums and added electronics compliment the symphonic arrangements that Manos has put together. Where the strings are calmly singing their song, everything else around them appears to have gone haywire. It’s the juxtaposition of the two that makes the track really stand out and reminds me of game music when you get the hero rising up before the final battle. Gaining courage. Gaining honour. About to lunge forward. Ending on the title track “Sólfar” feels like a nadir of sorts. It’s a track that takes the orchestral road similar to a post rock piece. It grows, meanders and expands slowly and surely. It’s so beautifully understated while doing it too as more drums, then guitars start to seep in over the string and piano riff. It’s in the same league of beautifulness as Austin Wintory’s Journey – just in a smaller scale.
Put simply – if you like piano and strings. Buy this immediately. It’s one of the first gems of 2016. Manos Milonakis has made a minor masterpiece. Now say that 10 times over once you’ve listened to it in full.
Recommended Track: “Quiet Grey