In a Torrington Haze – Reflecting on Ben Solomon’s stand out album
Ben Solomon’s 2003 album ‘Torrington Haze’ is, in some ways, aptly named. It evokes the image of a small town obscured in a low atmosphere, swilling landscapes reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and mysterious environments rich with intrigue and emotion. These overtones are unquestionably found in the piano pieces found on ‘Torrington Haze’, an album that dives and ducks through swirling choral clouds from the first track. Where the word ‘Haze’ perhaps does not do the album justice, however, is in its connotations of disorder and mess – Ben’s Solomon’s masterful playing is as clear as polished glass.
When the album was recorded, Solomon was only in his early thirties. What’s more impressive is that the entirety of the ten track album, with a run time of forty five minutes, was recorded in just one day. Knowing this lends ‘Torrington Haze’ an operatic feel – rather than individual pieces, each track works together to create a cohesive poignant narrative. The intertwined feeling of the album is materialised in the title of tracks – ‘Lament number one’ bleeds into ‘Lament number 2’ within the first few minutes, and ‘Fantasy number 1’ reappears as ‘Fantasy number two’ towards the end of the work. As each piece continues from on to the next in real time, Solomon’s playing becomes increasingly smooth as he transforms into the confident conductor of the ‘Torrington Haze’ panorama. While some might tickle the ivories, Solomon caresses them.
Solomon’s assemblage of an album into one sprawling story is no accident. ‘Torrington Haze’ could be an epic poem and, indeed, Solomon claims the album was written as a response to four and a half years of personal ‘evolution and turbulence’. He calls it ‘a diary of my life, every feeling I’ve ever had’. The totality of the statement could be taken as an exaggeration when read in isolation. Having listened to the album, the autobiographical explanation rings true.
Tracks encapsulate moments of change in life. While ‘Fantasy number one’ opens with slow and bittersweet notes, it goes on to descend into a skipping trance of broken chords. As the piece moves from high pitched notes to deep and dramatic motifs, from airy melodies to climatic crescendos, Solomon tells a story that could be applied to anyone whose life has shifted from mundane to momentous in a matter of seconds.
This story telling, however, is only achievable through the impressive range of emotion that Solomon sonically represents throughout the album. While ‘Five Fingers’ ascends scales in a thoughtful, absent minded journey, the next track ‘Moulin rouge’ is a seductive minor piece. Where ‘Lament number one’ begins and ends with a fretting motif that translates as dismal anxiety, ‘Air in A’ is a tender piece whose pace accelerates like an excitable beating heart. Solomon taught himself to play the keyboard ‘in order to express the powerful feelings and sounds that came into his head’, and ‘Torrington Haze’ is proof that he certainly achieved that goal.
You can purchase the album here.
Words by Kate Bowie