It's good to be listening to another Solar Corona album. I thoroughly enjoyed Lightning One back in 2019, though it isn't amongst their others on their Bandcamp page, and was eager to listen to a follow-up. Apparently I missed the follow-up because there was a second in 2019 called Saint-Jean-de-Luz. There's so much good stuff coming out nowadays that I can't even see it all. Solar Corona are Portuguese, they've expanded to a four piece this time around, and they play psychedelic rock with a serious side of space rock, enough so that a couple of pieces clearly nod towards Hawkwind.
One is the opener, Heavy Metal Salts, though it's a sassy drum piece when it begins. It's not long before it settles into a Hawkwind vibe, surrounded by an atmosphere of keyboards. It continues to build throughout, which means a heck of a lot of build over six minutes. The other obviously Hawkwind-influenced piece is Alpendurada, at the other end of the album, which is so Hawkwind that it becomes Motörhead. That frantic rumble sounds like the chorus to Emergency to me. However, it evolves later on into a pulsing Pink Floyd sound, shifts seamlessly into Tangerine Dream and pounds us with a finalé. It's quite the closer.
The best pieces of music here to my mind—and yes, everything remains instrumental—come after the opener, with the title track and then Thrust. These highlight what Solar Corona are so good at, which is to immerse us in music that reminds us of places we've never been.
Pace kicks off like Pink Floyd's Time, but these clocks aren't clocks at all. They're some imaginative percussion from Peter Carvalho and they continually build through the eight and half minutes the song runs. It's a much slower build than Heavy Metal Salts could boast but it's consistent and the effect changes as those faux clocks speed up and get more immediate. There's a point where they start to feel sinister, especially after a low guitar joins in, as if they're hissing at us. It's thoroughly effective at taking us to a very specific place.
Thrust is even better at that, because we're at ground zero for a spaceship launch and it's almost impossible to imagine anything else happening. It's urgent from the outset, with jagged guitar an evocative ignition sound but then garage rock drums kick in and they're furious. This spaceship is going up and it's going up in a goddamn hurry. This is wild and glorious space rock that keeps up a frantic pace and takes us way way out there. Imagine if the last minute of Space Truckin' had the urgency of Speed King and double the speed and you'll be on the right lines.
A.U. is so slow in comparison, it's almost a stop and it had to be very deliberate placement to put a slow piece right after a frantic one. We feel like we're still blasting off into the cosmos only for the engines to stop and suddenly we're floating. Parker S.P. is funkier stuff, a fresh drum atmosphere penetrated by a cool bass line. These aren't bad at all but, in comparison to the immediacy of the highlights and the vitality of the bookends, they're kind of just there.
I like the added density that comes with having a fourth member, but I'm not sure exactly what he contributed. The three primary musicians from Lightning One are back, which presumably means that Rodrigo Carvalho is still the guitarist, José Roberto Gomes is still on bass and Peter Carvalho is still sat behind the drumkit. There's no saxophone this time out, but Nuno Loureiro is credited as a fourth member. I'm presuming he's the second guitarist, given there's a Nuno Loureiro with a string of credits playing guitars in other Portuguese bands, but someone's handling keyboards on this album and I have no idea who that is.
Whoever's doing what is immaterial, though, because they combine their energies wonderfully to create a memorable team effort. Few bands are so well integrated that I can't really call out one over the rest for a special mention. They all do the business and they do it apparently effortlessly.