Between two two-CD sets by the Flower Kings (the 1997 Stardust We Are and the 1999 Flower Power), guitarist Roine Stolt found time to record a solo album, Hydrophonia. He handles guitars, bass, and keyboards and recruited Flower Kings drummer Jaime Salazar and FK contributor Ulf Wallander (soprano saxophone). An all-instrumental affair, Hydrophonia has at its center an oceanic theme: all song titles revolve around the sea and each track is inhabited by oceanic resonances, from sea shanty-like melodies to more subtle underwater atmospheres. Stolt's writing has rarely been so focused and delicate. He reaches a level of musical beauty in simplicity never found in Flower Kings albums. Less bombastic than the groups music, Hydrophonias is all in its melodies. Stolt's influences are more palpable here, especially Frank Zappa's spirit, which can be traced back in the chord progression and guitar solo in the middle of "Wreck of HMS Nemesis" (otherwise the track closer to standard Flower Kings material) and more obviously in "Bizarre Seahorse Sex Attack," the double-speed reprise of "Cosmic Lodge"'s theme in "Seafood Kitchen Thing," and the presence of sea shanty melodies throughout the album (Zappa loved this form of music, just listen to "Uncle Meat" or "Toads of the Short Forest"). The music touches the aggressiveness of King Crimson in "Nuclear Nemo," providing a nice dramatic moment in this otherwise very peaceful and sunny album. Every song has a melody easy to remember, often enhanced by Wallander's saxophone. The whole album recreates feelings of the sea in impressive details without ever resorting to actual sea sounds. Very strongly recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture