Mark Solotroff
Mark Solotroff Credit: Courtesy the artist

Chicago sound wizard Mark Solotroff has been wielding his powerful electronic grimoire since the mid-80s as the leader of Intrinsic Action, Bloodyminded, and Anatomy of Habit. He’s also collaborated with a who’s who of industrial and metal artists, including the Atlas Moth, Indian, Locrian, Plague Bringer, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Brutal Truth, and the Body. Then there are his side projects: in the past couple years, he’s remastered the extensive body of lo-fi synth music he released under the name Super Eight Loop, put out an album with dark-synth trio Nightmares, and revived his Milan-Chicago postindustrial collective Ensemble Sacrés Garçons, who put out their first album in 25 years. Solotroff brings the sum of his experience to bear on the albums he puts out under his own name, which reflect an artistic discipline that makes each record a distinct work with its own specific intentions. His new release, Not Everybody Makes It, is somber and deliberately restrained, meant to be played at a volume that allows the ambient sounds of the listener’s home to slip through (unlike some of his other work, which is definitely meant to be heard overwhelmingly loud). With its six songs, which run about ten minutes each, Solotroff shapes sound into bite-size meditations that thread the needle between representing anxiety and soothing it. Much of his work is confrontational and violent, but he’s also a master of the elegiac (such as in Anatomy of Habit), and that’s on full display throughout Not Everybody Makes It. Like much of the music I’ve heard from the past year and a half, its emotional perimeter has been shaped in part by solitude, grief, and worry. The opening track, “Charged Matter (The Problem From the Inside),” lays down the thesis and the challenge: to ground oneself and accept a new reality, to sit with the present moment and feel the sorrow for what has been lost. Solotroff often focuses on the relationship between the body and consciousness, and the windlike sweep and nagging drone of “Attention to Flesh (Compel Yourself)” make it sound like music for a spiritual workout with a ghostly personal trainer who isn’t going to cut you any slack. Solotroff recorded and mixed the album himself in April and May 2021, and Collin Jordan mastered it at the Boiler Room in May, as vaccines were being distributed en masse and Chicago began to slowly open up. A sense of hope permeates some of the tracks, such as “Return to Pleasure (Body Into Voice),” which invokes a cautious sense of relief that can only come after a difficult ordeal. Not Everybody Makes It is a beautiful, subtle record that will reward repeated listenings.  v