Sia is available on CD and Double disc vinyl from Giant Electric Pea
In every town the windows are painted black, like shut eyes searching the streets for lost dreams, and silence seals mouths and letterboxes, hushing every voice. The sky is a coarse blanket, with sharp corners tucked tight. It’s that second when you’re almost awake.
Listen: behind the boarded-up library, or there where brambles stitch dead-end streets to old railway embankments – a song. Insect buzz bobs and bends, a sprung chord looping between parked cars and lampposts. Bird calls to bird calls to bird, chattering rills and riffs, tentative vamps on aerials and washing lines, testing the tunes they carry in their blood. A breeze ticks time on an empty phone box, its receiver swinging like hips that itch to dance.
In street after street, doors are deadlocked, and dark rooms are Rorschach blots of figures and faces, a hundred camera angles that show nothing but lead-painted words that build to a poisoned Babel.
But this is not who we are.
Listen: as you pull out the plug, music pours in, buoying you to brightness you have never noticed.
Rising like bubbles from a sinking Ship of Fools, the rhythm of the Earth-heart beats just beneath
rippling streets. It’s the figure of the flow – fast, then slow – that your body knows from before you
were born; and you feel it more than hear it as you break the shining glass ceiling while, outside,
morning birds peck at the blackness, letting in the light, welcoming you to song. It’s that second when you wake.
Sia: Scots Gaelic for six. Why six? Well, it’s Solstice’s sixth studio album, containing six new tracks – a lot of which is in six time. And there are, of course, six members of the band.
But as soon as you start thinking about the significance of the number, more ideas present themselves. You throw a six to begin, and although Solstice are marking their fortieth anniversary this year, new singer Jess Holland brings a fresh complexion to a line-up otherwise unchanged for more than a decade. This freshness permeates the whole album, with lighter – though no less dynamic – arrangements than its predecessors, with Andy Glass’s acoustic guitar and Jenny Newman’s violin more prominent.
Don’t confuse lightness and lightweight, though! Opener ‘Shout’ is a song of the city, the funky bustling of Robin Phillips and Pete Hemsley’s rhythm section underlying the swerve and swell of Steven McDaniel rush hour keys. And there’s the song, running against the crush of the crowd, urgent and angry. It’s not the punky anger of desperation, though, but the finely-tuned rage that urges change and the toppling of monoliths. Yes, the road of hope is long and we sometimes lose our way, but this is a song to sing as ideological walls topple.
And there’s that number six ticking away again: I am not a number, I am a free man, as McGoohan’s Prisoner railed. This is an album permeated with the call to individual freedom, the call to conquer fear, but also with reminders of the responsibilities that come with that liberation; to ourselves, to each other, to those who follow, and to the fragile rock on which we spin through space. It’s a tough choice, the path is long and hard, but it’s necessary and, yes, we can make it.
Because six is the charm, the spell. In China, the number six is held to be lucky, because 六 sounds like 流 (liú), which means flow. As all things flow, so the music flows, , steady but inexorable, gently transforming the landscape while, as Plato observed, the walls of the city shake. ‘A New Day’ is inevitable, and that trademark Solstice guitar solo spins in celebration into the music of the Spheres.
In numerology, six is the number of community, the number of nurturing and of sharing. Sia reflects that: an album of spiritual sustenance and generosity. Love is Coming. Shout it out.