It’s always interesting to see and hear musicians from bands you’ve long admired spread their creative wings into alternative ways of expressing themselves. And the latest to grace my ears is a solo project under the banner of Mitochondrial Sun by guitarist Niklas Sundin, one of the founding members of the legendary and seminal Gothenburg melo-death crew, Dark Tranquillity. Press blurb mentions it was “created with support from the Swedish Arts Council”, so presumably some degree of funding was made available for Sundin to realise his musical vision. If that be the case, then it’s been money very well spent, as the reification of his creativity is sheer bliss, on an instrumental album that has transpired to be a very nice surprise indeed.
First off, I think I’ve been most surprised by the diversity of the music. There’s a melancholic sentiment running through the core of most tracks, but the stylistic diversity and changing moods is what makes this such an engaging listen. As does the fusion of the music’s organic qualities versus its more synthetically generated sounds. A cello, grand piano and guitar feature sporadically throughout, but amalgamated and contrasted with fabricated electronica. And it all works incredibly well, in a set of compositions that alternate between absorbing and jarring sonics. The guitars, for example, range from beauteously smooth licks in the sublime ‘The Void Begets’ to abrasive distortion in ‘The Great Filter’.
Some of the melancholically oriented darker material has sonic echoes of film score work by the likes of Claudio Simonetti, John Carpenter, John Murphy, et al. Only passing similarities, but they’re there to be heard. ‘Stars Beneath the Sea’, for instance, develops into noticeable Carpenter-esque vibes during its second half, with a central motif that’s reminiscent of some of his 80s scores. And then there’s the obvious Brian Eno comparison, one of the most lauded pioneers of ambient/experimental electronica. But these are, of course, only tenuous comparisons; Mitochondrial Sun is its own emotionally engaging beast.
Whether or not Sundin had concomitant images in his mind's eye when composing this material, it certainly engenders some vivid imagery in mine. Together with an emotionally captivating essence that's conveyed through the compositions, this is aesthetically rousing stuff. Steeped in dark, menacing, moving and absorbing atmospheres, and richly layered bliss, ‘Mitochondrial Sun’ has definite repeat listening value, where something different can be heard, felt and experienced with each new encounter, such is its creative and emotional depth. At least, that’s been my experience on each occasion I’ve engaged with this most intriguing of works. Fantastic stuff, Niklas - congrats, mate!
Review by Mark Holmes
14th February 2020
1) Ur Tehom
3) Braying Cells
4) Stars Beneath the Sea
6) Celestial Animal
8) The Void Begets
9) Entropy's Gift
10) The Great Filter
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Steeped in dark, menacing, moving and absorbing atmospheres, and richly layered bliss, ‘Mitochondrial Sun’ has definite repeat listening value, where something different can be heard, felt and experienced with each new encounter, such is its creative and emotional depth."