Chris Forsyth has long been a brilliant and adaptable guitarist and musician, crafting fascinating solo albums as well as collaborations with the likes of Mountains’ Koen Holtcamp. His new record, Solar Motel, presents another curious twist in his career. The album is a four-suite piece that features Forsyth’s guitar, but he is less virtuoso here and more band leader, taking the Solar Motel Band (and us, by extension) through an exploration of rock and roll guitar history. The first movement (“Solar Hotel I”) opens slowly at first, with basic hooks, until the band erupts into psychedelic vamping, Forsyth’s guitar tangling around bass and keys in affecting near-chaos. “II” is a darker turn, where full pianos create space around the slashing guitar work and give room for the propulsive drums to push the dreamy mix forward. This leads us into “III” the most epic movement here, which is by turns fragile and explosive, the sound of a band wandering out into the desert to try and fill up the entire night with sound and succeeding.
It also leads us nicely into the closing of the album and leaves us with the feeling that Solar Motel, despite the single location of its title, is a restless yet purposeful expanse of sound. It’s an impressive, endlessly playful, and arena-sized exploration of all the moods and textures rock music can fit under its umbrella. It’s not the first time Forsyth has wowed us with his ambition, but that the players around him match it makes this a new twist on his sound, one you’ll come back to time and time again, if only to hear what you missed last time.