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solar bears

Solar Bears: 10 essential soundtracks

The Irish duo have continued collaborating with American director Michael Robinson for their new album on Sunday Best.

Solar Bears are Irish duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench, who formed in 2009 and first rose to prominence with their debut LP for Planet Mu, 2010’s She Was Coloured In. In 2013 they returned to the label for the acclaimed Supermigration album, which mixed traces of sci-fi electronics, krautrock and psychedelia to great effect. Now Kowalski and Trench are readying their third full-length, Advancement, which lands on Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best imprint this Friday March 18.

Having originally formed a bond at sound engineering college through their mutual love of cinema, Kowalski and Trench have always administered a strong visual aspect to their work. For the new album, they’ve continued their collaborative relationship with American director Michael Robinson who created the artwork and two accompanying videos, including the dazzling visuals for ‘Wild Flower’. Across Advancement‘s 11 tracks, the duo craft a sound that is utterly mesmerising, utilising volcanic samples, elements of nature and native instrumentation. You can currently stream the whole album here.

With such a passion for film music we thought it was only right for one half of Solar Bears, John Kowalski, to take us through 10 of his favourite soundtracks. You can find some essential listening in here, and some pieces that have undoubtedly influenced Solar Bears’ varied sound. There’s appearances from Mica Levi’s first score for 2013 sci-fi horror Under The Skin, and My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields’ gorgeous contribution to the Lost In Translation soundtrack.

Kick back and uncover some serious delights below, and if you’re in London why not head to the album’s launch party on April 7, where the band will be joined by Lone of R&S Records.

1. Serge Gainsbourg – Slogan

Definitely a high point in his musical arc. He essentially played himself in the movie. It brought him in contact with the love of his life Jane Birkin, he never fully recovered from the split.

2. Kevin Shields – Ikebana

More magic from Shields, comprised of broken beauty and simplicity. It gave the film another character/element without being oppressive which is pretty rare. Total triumph.

3. Jon Brion – Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

What can you actually say about this and do it justice? Supremely talented self taught composer. It has been sampled heavily since its release.

4. Jim Williams – A Field In England

I was saddened to learn he was not involved in the upcoming adaptation of High Rise by Ben Wheatley. His work here is as impactful as you’ll find.

5. SebastiAn – Notre Jour Viendra

Pleasant surprise putting this on one night and hearing the score come out. Understated and grandiose. I am looking forward to him doing more in the future, whatever the project may be.

6. Para One – Girlhood

Like SebastiAn a French electronic producer turned composer. He has a background in classical music as is evident in the piece above. Flawless accompaniment to the visuals provided by Celine Sciamma in Girlhood.

7. Mica Levi – Under The Skin

Remarkable debut score from Mica Levi. So happy to see this honoured/recognized in all quarters of the film industry too. Without question the greatest science fiction film of the past decade.

8. Alejandro Jodorowsky – The Holy Mountain

A major motion picture for us both in the band. Jodorowsky sparked the imaginations of countless directors with this effort. Endlessly inventive.

9. Ennio Morricone – The Thing

Morricone took on the score for The Thing due to Carpenter’s work commitments. He was asked to use less notes than normal and spike it with dread. Most of the material written was not used but has since turned up in The Hateful Eight by Tarantino.

10. Bruce Langhorne – Idaho Transfer

Quite a rarity for fans of soundtracks in general. You can hear the opening theme at around 3:49 mins. It was the first film directed by Peter Fonda of Easy Riders fame.

 Advancement is out March 18 on Sunday Best. Pre-order here.

Featured image: Dorje De Burgh