With an IMDb profile that features Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Batman (flesh as well as lego), Thomas Farnon certainly possesses an ear for the epic. In Solace, the British composer presents his first choral album which explores various states of mind through a fairly consistent state of writing.
The gentle oooo-ing and production of album-opener ‘Paradisium’ offers a stamped passport into the choral soundworld of Messrs Whitacre and Malone (in particular Gareth’s 2013 record Voices). Exhibiting both ethereal and synthesised qualities, the basses sound like the deeper pipes of an organ may be bolstering them as the lines enquire their way through the opening piece of Solace. There is an inevitability about the Anglican choral triggers that this conjures as the voices swell to their first words, not entirely distinguishable from the reverberating vocal structure around them. Although the text somehow seems unimportant when it comes to grasping Farnon’s musical gestures and intention in this project.
The organ/choir counterpoint and syncopation of ‘Opium’ feels at once less Wells Cathedral School (where Thomas studied) and more Interstellar (which frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer put together with organist Roger Sayer). In ‘I Will Try’, the earnest ooo-s return for a second hearing, this time developing a purposeful heartbeat beneath the vocal tapestry. Here, it’s possible to see threads of the composer’s work on leading Netflix regi-mentary, The Crown and the other filmic work that has taken him into the orbit of Lorne Balfe. While words are hard to grasp in ‘Eternity’ —a piece that owes much to Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus— this obscurity would seem to be part of the composer’s design, writing in a dreamlike way where precise words are allowed to go missing in sleep. The Malonean qualities of the opening track return in ‘Simple Smile’ as conductor Terry Edwards makes full use of the reverb afforded to the London Voices in London’s ever-versatile AIR Studios.
If Solace as a body of work represents a dreamlike state then ‘Well Trained Smile’ is the contented return to consciousness. While sleep can bring restlessness and terrors to some, Farnon projects a mindset in which there are questions of life being asked although none that trouble the subconscious too deeply. The London Voices are suitably blended to ensure no one thought/voice stands out over the course of the record which is both true to the concept but also leaves the question ‘what if Thomas Farnon wrote a record for a choir like the one he used to sing with in Wells Cathedral’? Let’s hope that’s a question we one day get to hear a gloriously choral answer to.
Solace is available now to stream.