MUSIC

John O’Connor – Dreams of a Solar Flare (Stripped Digital)

The stunning artwork for this release depicts the sun as beautiful, but powerful and dangerous. That’s not a bad indicator of the music on offer here on Stripped Digital’s first release of the year, which sees London-based Irish producer John O’Connor return to the label to offer two different versions of ‘Dreams of a Solar Flare’.

Version 1 is tougher, building with heavy kicks, biting claps, chattering hi-hats, and swirling synths, before the basslines kick in at the two-minute mark. The principal bass part is the kind of offbeat number that’s cheesy as hell in the wrong hands, but an utter weapon in the right ones (as Oliver Lieb has been singlehandedly proving for ages now). John O’Connor definitely falls in the latter camp, deftly applying cool effects to give the bassline further character and forward momentum. A spooky, discordant chime takes us into the breakdown, where the track’s main melody emerges. This is where the real strength of the track lies; the warm, rising melody is a real winner. The track slams back in with a wall of bass, but O’Connor holds back the offbeat bassline for 32 beats, allowing it to create absolute mayhem when it’s finally released. As the track powers into its climax, the main theme sails over those ghostly chimes. The result felt a little busy to me, to be honest; I’d have preferred to hear the main theme sing out more clearly here. Fortunately, that’s exactly how John O’Connor arranges things in part 2.

Version 2 keeps virtually everything I like best about version 1 intact, from the swirling, hazy melodies during the build up to the glorious main melody, but it changes other features of the arrangement in ways that uniformly appealed to me more. Verson 1’s bassline gets replaced with two more progressive-sounding ones – one chugging while the other pulses – and the track feels a bit more restrained as a result. This isn’t a bad thing – far from it. Somehow the track gains a bit more elegance and coherence as a result, and crucially the drop after the long, lovely breakdown is still plenty punchy. Moreover, as I’ve already hinted, the main theme is allowed more space to take centre stage in the exhilarating final two minutes. I’m a big fan of this.

This is a wicked way to get the New Year rolling for Stripped Digital, with John O’Connor delivering two high-impact versions of ‘Dreams of a Solar Flare’. As I’ve indicated, my pick is definitely version 2, though you can’t go wrong here. 8.5/10

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