Updated: Feb 17, 2021
It's been almost two years since my best friend and I flew over to Germany for E-tropolis festival in March 2019. It was there that I finally got to see Solar Fake live and it was because of their wonderful performance I first thought of writing about music shows. Sven's crystal clear voice and humble blushes at the audience contrasted with André's incredibly infectious smile from ear to ear as he urged on the crowd. The band wasn't just performing their music and going through the motions, they were doing so with love and as much heart as musicians could possibly muster. It was indeed magical. So it was that my first (and very amateur!) Elektro Vox article (HERE) was born out of writing about Solar Fake, PRIEST, Suicide Commando, Welle:Erdbal and so many other great artists on that day. So it's quite an honour to have reviewed their latest album before it released on Friday the 12th of February. It feel like a nice 'full circle'
Three years after the release of "You Win. Who Cares?", Solar Fake announce their new album "Enjoy Dystopia" - an album that consistently follows the path of its popular predecessor and even takes it several steps further. Singer Sven Friedrich agrees:
"Some of the new songs are more close to "You Win. Who Cares?", others however are a bit more different. With each new album I always look a little bit beyond the horizon and attempt to bring new elements into the music, but without compromising the Solar Fake sound."
There is a special new element that has a great importance for the sympathetic singer:
"For the first time, there is a song with German lyrics on the album. We have never had that before with Solar Fake. I had the chorus lines right in my head when I wrote the song. And somehow, I didn't want to translate it into English, that would have been a compromise and with Solar Fake, I don't make any compromises. Ever." Strong words, but in fact, the song ‘Es geht dich nichts an’ fits perfectly on the album and shows a previously undiscovered aspect in the Solar Fake sound.
Fans of Solar Fake can look forward to some rage infused melodies and beats: "The album is dominated by aggression, which is sometimes more obvious and sometimes more subtile. Of course, there are also calmer and sorrowful moments. Nevertheless, the ones who do not know where to put their feelings, their aggression, their despair of humankind, their vulnerability to an overall stupidity, will feel understood.”
Left: André Feller (keyboards,bass) Right: Jens Halbauer(drums) Centre: Sven Friedrich (vocals)
Photo: Melanie Haack
(With Sven Friedrich)
Photo: Melanie Haack
Q. In the latest music video for 'It's who you are' we see a small continuation of Jean's sinister character, will there be more music videos to further tell this story and how do the videos relate to the album theme as a whole?
A. Oh, I don't know. We just thought it's funny to have this small part in the new clip to underline Jeans' psychopathic character, hahaha... Not really, he's a totally nice guy... Just with a light weakness for girls locked up in basements ;-)
We have ideas for 2 more clips, one will be rather visual, the other has a cool story, but we're not sure when we can shoot... So far we haven't planned on continuing this, but who knows...
Q.You have commented before that.. "The ones who do not know where to put their feelings, their aggression, their despair of humankind, their vulnerability to an overall stupidity, will feel understood." With the album being named 'Enjoy Dystopia' is the concept of the album an observation of the world around us, and was it easy to find inspiration for this album in the huge amounts of drama we have seen in the past few years?
A. Oh, there was almost too much inspiration, lyric-wise... It sometimes seems that people become more and more self-absorbed and not even recognise there's a world around with other people in it, with animals in it... And honestly, four years of Trump could alone be enough inspiration for hundreds of songs; And the last year brought so many disgusting and horrible people to the surface... It's unbelievable...
Q. The second CD has a lot of remixes by some incredible artists such as BlutEngel and Massive Ego. Which of the mixes is your favourite and what artists do you most enjoy working with both in album production and performing live?
A. I really can't say that I'd pick one remix over another. I think they are all amazing and I was completely overwhelmed by the musical quality of every single remix and how much creativity the artists have been putting into their work.
I'm totally honoured to have these great artists on the album and I hope that in the future we might perform one of those mixes live together.
I never had many live collaborations, but I've had some with Aesthetic Perfection, with Project Pitchfork, with SITD, and Daniel Myer. All of them were totally great and challenging, but I enjoy doing something special and surprising... So I hope there will be more of this in the future.
Photo: Melanie Haack
Q. Since the last release 'You win, Who cares?' has there been a change in the message and themes of your music? -Also- 'Enjoy Dystopia' has that incredible signature sound of Solar Fake but also feels really fresh in a lot of ways, you always strive to make your music sound fresh isn't that right?
A. Yes, I try to work on my own skills all the time. I've been working in a huge pro audio recording studio for a couple of years, so I do know what I'm doing in my own studio. But I always try to get better, to make my music sound better, to become a better composer and lyricist. I do love the Solar Fake sound, but I also want to bring new elements into the music...
let's put it this way... I don't want to release an album twice. So I always want to make something new, without 'betraying' the style... And well, I think my lyrical themes are still in the same corner... It's about people's behaviour, mental issues and how people deal with it, about all the nasty abysses of human beings... haha...
Q. Is there a favourite funny or important moment story that you tell people about Solar Fake that you can tell us too?
A. Oh, when we're on tour we always have funny moments, we're like a family, band, crew, and even record company and booking agent. It's really hard for me to pick one story... And I think most of the funny stories we've already told in our weekly podcast, but of course, it's German language only, but a friend of ours usually translates some parts of it...
With important moments... well there are a few... One is definitely when André joined me for live performances, the next was signing with Out Of Line and the next was Jeans joining us as a live drummer; And of course there were the many support tours that helped us being noticed... Q. What difficulties with lockdown have you had in putting this album together?
A. Well, my deadline has been moved to a much earlier day than expected, because all manufacturers needed much more time. And that was because they had to work with a significantly reduced staff, in order to fulfil the covid requirements. For example, the vinyl master I had to hand-over one month before I had expected... That put me indeed under quite some pressure and I've been working nearly around the clock to get everything done. But that was all. I have my studio at home and I don't depend on musicians or technicians or anyone else to produce music, so I wasn't affected by the lockdown, except for the deadlines.
Photo: Melanie Haack
A. That's something I can't say. You know, I'm doing literally everything on my own. Writing, performing, mixing... So each SF song is 100% me and each song is like a part of me. So they are all equally important and I couldn't pick one song over another. For live performance we'll see... Of course some songs are more fun to play live than others... But since we can't play gigs at the moment, it's too early to say ;-) Q. What artists are you listening to most right now?
A. At the moment it's Iris, Metric, and Soft Kill.
Q. What venue has been your favourite to play at? (I was blown away by your performance at E-Tropolis 2019!)
A. Oh yes, that's an awesome venue! Well, this is also hard to say for me... I love playing live so much, that I usually don't care so much, hahaha. But some very impressive venues were the Corona gig last year at Parkbuehne Leipzig, or our performance at Haus Auensee and the day after at Gewandhaus Leipzig; Or at Lido in Berlin... It's really hard to say... The funny thing is, that I don't recall one concert of Solar Fake that I didn't like... Q. What life lessons has being in industrial taught you over the years, and what would you change about the scene if you could?
A. Well, I've learnt that people in this scene are very sensitive, sometimes a bit broken, but they're by far the most lovely people at all. You always find open arms and hearts and they usually look beyond facades. For me it's like a huge family... And it's the most interesting music also, hahaha
Q. What (provisional) plans do you have for 2021 if things improve?
A. We have some gigs planned, most of them were actually scheduled for 2020 and we have to wait and see, if they can take place. If not, we'll try to find some gigs under covid requirements and our next tour is being re-planned for next winter and we really hope that gigs will be possible by then.
I think for this year we'll just try to take opportunities if there are any. Maybe we record another streaming gig...
Q. Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
A. I hope you'll like our new album and I also hope that our gig in Bradford can take place in August. We were also planning on more gigs in the UK, but well, it's all complicated right now... Let's hope this nightmare ends soon and we can see each other again on concerts, festivals and parties!
Photo: Melanie Haack
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Before we begin it's worth noting that there are 3 CD's overall to this album. The full release includes a second CD with a couple more new songs and a lot of remixes of the main album. The 3rd CD which is only available in the now sold out limited edition box set contains Piano and acoustic versions. A full track list can be seen near the end as well as embeds to the Solar Fake Podcasts and Spotify player.
The album opens with a resume of their previous sounds packed in to one song, it's the audio equivalent of the first taste or smell of food bringing back swarms of memories. It has the more aggressive and distorted -almost- aggro vocals that 2015's 'Fake to be alive' had which is wonderful to hear again. There is also those oh so welcoming keyboard notes that hint at the likes of 'Such A Shame'. Finally there is of course the soft melodic tones that only Sven can give voice to in such pure ways. This track feels like a "welcome back", or even a "welcome home" which gives juxtaposition to the darker lyrical content about mental health. Who doesn't like upbeat songs with sinister lyrics? 'At least we'll forget' provides just that.
The first track that came to mind hearing the keyboard intro was Apoptygma Berzerk's 'Kathy's song' (Victoria mix by VNV Nation). Where that track had long sweeping and darker tones, this Solar fake track is faster and free flowing but both sound very similar. However that could just be a pleasant memory hook, APOP having been the headliner band at the E-tropolis fest I mentioned at the beginning. It seems to be an overall feel to the album that the melodies make you want to dance, to smile at the friends you care about on a dance-floor in adoration and gratitude; and yet the lyrical content is far more tragic and darker than the melodies. This album is a beautiful tragedy. I feel like it is a perfect album metaphor for the state of the world at the moment and how much we long to be free again in music drenched clubs.
This Pretty Life Music Video
The first single for the album 'This Pretty Life' is upbeat and has that energetic flare and catchy lyrical hook in both verse and chorus that Sven nails every time with his crystal clear voice. That's one thing I also love about Solar Fake, I can always precisely hear what words are being sung with his wonderful annunciations. The video is also a rather accurate depiction of the side effects of anti-depressants..
"The individual 'home scenes' we each filmed separately, except for a few scenes we captured while shooting 'This Pretty Life' and of course, the clip is an exaggeration of the image of what everyone probably has of our private life through our podcast. The song itself is about unpleasant and slimy people who permanently try to manipulate their environment." - Sven
I don't think I can quite describe to you with any real justice how incredible the synths that come in at the 29 second mark are on 'Arrive Somewhere'. They have the pure euphoric power of trance music and yet carry the depth and emotion that only electronic industrial music can convey in just a few notes. There is something about the bass and 'surround sound' feel of this track that resonates deep within like being in a huge concert venue by yourself. How apt that seems in the Dystopia of today..
'Es geht dich nichts an' (It doesn't matter to you)as mentioned earlier is Solar Fake's first all German track. It's quite different than their usual offerings and justly so with its underlying aggression and sense of dread. It will be very interesting to see how well this will sound live in future.
It's Who You Are Music Video
The second single's video sees a slight continuation of the story from the previous music video for 'This Pretty Life'. The track has a profound chorus that personifies Solar Fake's signature sound like a golden example of how 'Industrial Pop' can and should be. This band set the bar very high, that's for sure. Once again a song that has deep meaning lyrically and yet you find yourself dancing away oblivious to them at first..
'Cause this is who you are And this is how you fall And this is what you get I wish we'd never met 'Cause it's just who you are You looked stronger from afar And this is how you crawl 'Cause that's just who you are
The next few tracks are still very good content for an album but don't stand out as much as the first half of the album, except perhaps for the rather enjoyable second half of 'Implode'.
The album wraps up with 'Wish Myself Away'. Solar Fake may be known for their energetic up tempo beats but they are equally known for their ability to create some real heart wrenching songs that rip your emotions wide open. This track is another fine example of just that. It is a sorrowful reflection of ones life and will touch a deep sense of association with many of those who hear it. It reminds me just a little of David Bowies' 'Lazarus'. This is definitely a track you all have to her for yourselves.
And of all the right words I could have spoken over the years when I was broken. I always picked the ones that would lead me further away.
With CD 2 we have a euphoric opening track followed closely by an incredible cover of the Pixies''Where is my mind?' There are so many great remixes in here that I won't waffle about each track, however I will sat that Solitary Experiments' remix of 'Arrive Somewhere' makes that track so much more dance worthy than it already was. Also the Massive Ego remix of 'I despise you' puts such an edgy vibe to the song with some heavier retro twists that really does the Dystopia concept justice. It's impressive to see how many talented artists can really add to an already outstanding release.
At Least We‘ll Forget
I Despise You
This Pretty Life
Es geht dich nichts an
It‘s Who You Are
Trying Too Hard
Just Leave It
Wish Myself Away
Join Me In Death
Where Is My Mind
Es geht dich nichts an (Faelder Remix)
Implode (Blutengel Remix)
Arrive Somewhere (Solitary Experiments Remix)
This Pretty Life (Iris Remix)
I Despise You (Massive Ego Remix)
Trying Too Hard (Dunkelsucht Remix)
At Least We‘ll Forget (Backline Remix by Blood & Tears)
It's who you are (Random Starlight Remix)
I despise you (Vintage Remix by NAN)
At least we'll forget (Uplifting Emotional Mix by Anja & Alex)
It's who you are (Ost+Front Remix)
Just leave it (Lord of the Lost Version)
CD3: 'Masked' (Limited box set only, now sold out)
I despise you (Piano Version)