Album Review: Take a Genre-Defying Sonic Journey Through CharlestheFirst’s "Solus"

“This is a story of the lone journey, a pilgrimage to places previously unknown.”

A week since it hit streaming platforms, CharlestheFirst’s latest album, Solus, has led his fans on a reflective music journey. The new LP, which marks the virtuosic producer’s third album and first full-length release since 2019’s No Dimmer EP, unveils the next chapter of his saga through a 13-track sonic exploration of emotive sounds, beats and storytelling.

Solus, meaning “alone or unaccompanied”, is a personal look into the artists’ mind and imagination, illustrating a journey of overcoming challenges through a lush haven of symphonic sound design.

“This is a story of the lone journey, a pilgrimage to places previously unknown, CharlestheFirst said in a press statement. “A time of challenges that represent growth, and finally looking one’s true self in the mirror. A story of solitude. A story of sunrises seen and felt. A story of holding onto love and letting love go.”

Solus comes out of the initial cracks of 2021, showcasing the producer’s creative workings of a more-than dormant 2020. Led by two singles, “Out of the Dark” in November 2020 and the lyrical, raw “For Now,” Solus moonlights as an audial representation of CharlestheFirst’s emotional state and pensive viewpoints contrived by the hardships of the past year.

Listeners are set off on their own listening journey with “Learning 2 Pray,” a deep and visceral opening that churns along with chilling chimes and bass. The track is greeted with an atmospheric melody, a notion to the holy feeling of connecting with oneself.

“To Depart, To Seek” follows, highlighting the producer’s well-known downtempo, naturalist recording style, intermixed with warped digital drips for a contemplative ambience. “Figured U Out” marks the album’s first lyrical track, showcasing CharlestheFirst’s heavy hip-hop influences and evolution as a producer and songwriter.

Welcomed back since his collaboration on CharlestheFirst’s 2018 Ascent, Potions adds his rhythmic soundscapes and distorted sounds in the record’s fourth track, “Foreboding Feeling.” The song stands out from others on the album with its frenzied synths—underscored by a pulsing bassline—leaving an almost uneasy feeling for listeners due to its dark depths on the sonic spectrum.

“Prophecy” comes out of the clouds and transcends listeners on a mystical music expedition. One-minute into the track, a chugging beat builds to a melodic arrangement before a surge at the 1:45 mark, when he unloads a wonky experimental trap drop that slithers out with organic soundscapes. A sequential “Hopeful” picks up the warbling, bird-chirping sample of its predecessor before a warped bass accompaniment hits center stage for a gritty, heavier ending.

Released on CharlestheFirst’s birthday in November ahead of the full release, “Out of the Dark” might be one of the truest reflections of the album with its psychedelic, genre-defying sonic adventure. As the creation reference for the rest of the album, the track sets out on a downtempo arrangement and progressively leads into a light drum pattern while a faraway vocal calls out for love. Two minutes in, a danceable house beat lays down the foundation over a pulsing bass line before a centrifuge of wobbly bass patches collide. 

A short two-minute “Searching” interlude bridges as the eighth track on Solus for a light and astral lullaby, before “For Now” showcases the CharlestheFirst musical range and talent as a singer-songwriter. The emotive track is coupled with a music video that features him in and around his homes of Reno and Tahoe for a personal glimpse into his psyche.

Enlisting bass maestro Tsuruda on “Hang In There,” the ninth track begins with spacey synths and a sparkling ambience, underscored by a warm bassline. A rising beat drops to a gritty and pulsating sonic landscape, complete with tinctures of electric pulses. A three-note key melody starts the journey into “Fleeting Memories,” before the 40-second mark sets off into a lo-fi, surrealist segment. Just over halfway through the track, a punchy bassline breaks through just as quickly as it fades out to a silence to end the track.

As the 12th track and third and final collaboration of the album, “The Undoing” features Denver-based producer kLL sMTH. As a standout track, the collaboration between the two highlights a different sound from CharlestheFirst’s usual downtempo beats, instead highlighting punchy, glitchy rhythms that lend to a surefire jaw-dropper when played at his next live show.

Closing off the opus is “Clarity,” an energized and upbeat track accented with a danceable syncopated percussion line. Spacey vocals take the listener to the final chapter of the Solus story, leaving listeners with a sense that throughout the lone journey, a breakthrough comes and a clarity of light is shown again.

“The meaning of Solus to me is a journey alone. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts to homebase; a resetting of it all…I feel that this album stands alone in my discography because of how much I dove into its creation, Charlesthefirst said. “I really lived it and loved the process. So many important changes happened to me over the course of it being written.”

FOLLOW CHARLESTHEFIRST:

Facebook: facebook.com/ctfproduction
Instagram: instagram.com/charles.thefirst
Twitter: twitter.com/ctfbeats
Spotify: spoti.fi/33ghNKX

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