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With 'When I Get Home', Solange is looking for the soul

'When I Get Home'

“I saw things I imagined”

Solange is wearing a futuristic eyelid piece on the album cover. The jewellery designs of Keren Wolf are often worn by celebrities, but the look of the American singer is anything but glamorous. Rather vulnerable and stoic. She had imagined certain things, things that she saw but that turned out not to be there. Is it about inner imagination or something that has actually been seen, or something that she wanted to see?

This is how this album starts, with one of the most intriguing opening songs of recent years. What makes the sentence even stranger, it has to be said, is the repetition and the emphasis that is placed elsewhere with every repetition. After this reverse hallucination, something is finally perceived that is tangible, that offers hope and a possible solution: “Taking on the light.”

The imagination of the inner is also hidden in the meditative paintings of Mark Rothko. From an early age Solange has been visiting the Rothko Chapel in her hometown Houston, a space where a number of dark-coloured canvases can be admired permanently. Part of the video with which she launched this album was recorded in the museum. To composer Morton Feldman, a friend of Rothko, his paintings have always served as inspiration. Regarding the visual language of the spiritual expressionist Rothko, Feldman claimed that it goes to the edge of the canvas and he wanted to achieve the same effect in his own music. Comprehensive and up to the edge is definitely this ‘moodboard’ by Solange.

Both in her lyrics and music, repetition is something she uses so often that it almost becomes a kind of art form. In an interview she said that while recording, minimal music composer Steve Reich was one of the sources of inspiration. The music on When I Get Home comes mainly from an electric piano, from drum computers and other electronics. Clouds of ambient, bare rhythms and beats, distortions and experiment with voices. And indeed there is a lot of repetitive and minimal sound. Listening to the record takes quite some effort to appreciate her approach, which is predominantly sketchy and therefore seems to create distance. Sometimes you get the feeling that the form is made more important than the content. But on the other hand Solange uses her voice agile and fragile articulating within the “songs” and “Interludes”.

Those “interludes” are pieces of spoken word or samples from other people’s work. Take, for example, a nod of the head to the activist poet Pat Parker. But the inspiration for this album is not just an artistic one. Solange announced through Twitter that making this record resulted in a form of self-therapy and, in her lyrics, the singer refers to herself and to Houston through “slang” and metaphors. When I Get Home was recorded in various home studios, including one in Third Ward, a social housing neighbourhood in the Texan city where Solange grew up. The outcome is curious, fascinating and at times elusive ann everything, a counterpart to the archetypal soul album. No hits or sing-alongs, but still looking for the soul in a beautiful and successful experiment.