Since 2017, recording artist The Stillhet has been producing music under Solace Road – a New Age influenced Ambient project that incorporates spacy soundscapes, 70’s Prog influences, and melancholy piano-centered Mood music. Rather than allowing their own imagery to serve as a basis or a focal point of the music, The Stillhet remains an enigmatic mystery – one who lurks back in the shadows while allowing their compositions to speak volumes. Judging by the second full-length Solace Road release, Silence Within, which was released in January 2020, I’ll say that the music delivers a perfectly eloquent answer to any questions one may have raised about the project beforehand.
Silence Within starts on an adventurous note with “In Transient”. A bed of saw wave synths showered by spacy sound effects allow me to hear prominent influences from Vangelis (particularly his work in Blade Runner) and Jean-Michel Jarre. I also pick up on hints of Impressionistic tonality reminiscent of early 20th century composers such as Debussy. “Over Time’s Eclipse” is a piano based track that carries a sad yet serene quality to it. A few spacy saw waves swell in and out throughout the arrangement. The technical prowess of the piano work is superb. The clever shifts in key center and tonal quality throughout are done without feeling forced. Overall, this work reminds me of the style of masterful Prog Rock pianists such as Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater). “Forever…” continues in the piano centered style, but with a darker approach. Choir synth passages give the piece a Gothic overtone without coming across too depressing. The flawless rotation of time-signatures between 6/8 compound meter and 5/8 had the hair on the back of my neck standing at times. Things take a delightfully surprising turn on “The Flowing Sentient”, which features the prominent use of nylon-string guitars. Moody, murky, and grounded heavily in minor key parameters, the main passage takes the listener on a surreal walk through a hypnotic terrain of wonder and apprehension. A low-end string section occasionally enters and slowly flows along with the piece like fog through a haunted forest. I’m reminded very much of the acoustic guitar passages prominent in more Doom Metal oriented bands such as Opeth (on earlier albums before My Arms, Your Hearse) and Saturnus. The piece ends on a bit of a brighter note, transitioning to a bed of major and suspended chord tonal patterns before being washed away what sounds like a storm of heavy wind or ocean waves. The pianos make their return on “Light Turns Grey”. Predominantly set in a major key, this beautifully crafted composition carries a poignant sentiment. It carries a consistent flow through the first half of the work before transitioning into a glorious mid-section which hits many emotions on many levels. Getting closer to the end of the piece, a series of spacy, saw wave string pads enter the scenery like rays of light from two galaxies beyond which allow the piece to slowly ride out into the universe, fading slowly into oblivion. As “Inmost Realm” comes into the picture, a heavily reverberated soundscape takes the listener to the outskirts of the galaxy. More distinctly Ambient than much of the previous works heard on Silence Within, this is nonetheless a very nicely done work that displays an abundance of depth and sonic texture. Hints of Brian Eno, Brad Fiedel, and Tangerine Dream are prominent throughout while not quite sounding exactly like any of the aforementioned.
“Through a Pensive Spiral” takes yet another surprising twist and turn, offering the listener a composition made up of mallet-based percussive instruments; marimba, xylophone, and glockenspiel. I liken it to walking down a long, dark hallway in an unfamiliar setting while wondering what events may unfold. More cryptic in terms of mood and sonically more minimalistic than what’s heard on the majority of the release, I nonetheless find it to be a unique and refreshing departure in style which further reinforces The Stillhet’s versatility as a musician. “In Deep Thought is another epic based composition that blends Ambient tonal textures with Prog rock tinged, New Age style piano performance. Except, in this case, the piece begins in with only the soundscapes, which portray a contemplative, standstill mood. Upon reaching the halfway point, the Rick Wakeman like Ambient textures are replaced with a more brooding, mournful Piano passage that nicely trades a straight-forward simple meter in 4/4 with fragments of 7/8 meter. Like a stream of consciousness, the music doesn’t refrain much or return to any particular source. This cinematic approach would work very well in a Drama film during a pivotal scene or, perhaps, in an Adventure film in a moment of tranquility. Finally, the album concludes with the title track. This slow-paced, mellow, melancholy piano number drenched by sounds of rain, wind, and nature-like soundscapes takes the listener back down to Earth after an adventurous, monumental journey through another dimension. It’s a wonderful conclusion to a wonderfully composed effort. I highly recommend checking out Silence Within by Solace Road. There are plenty of unique styles of music composition that may satisfy listeners from a wide range of musical preferences, whether it’s New Age, Prog, light Classical piano, contemporary film scores, or all of the above.