Album Review: Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In
Reviewed by Padraic Halpin Source: (Ragged Words)
For better or (usually) worse, modern instrumental music tends to be lazily lumped into one of two categories: either you swell some of your instruments like Mogwai, or you use none at all, and toe the cinematic line. While Dublin/Wicklow duo Solar Bears may have committed everything on this, their debut LP, live to tape, they very much fall into the latter category. However, you don’t need to recognise a snippet of Jack Nicholson’s voice at the very start of the album, or clock the Andrei Tarkovsky reference in the band’s name, to detect the crucial influence of cinema in their work. This isn’t just ten-a-penny, vaguely cinematic electronic music, though: each of the fifteen tracks here sounds like it could soundtrack any scene of your wishing all on its own, and the considerable scope of She Was Coloured In makes it a joy to dream them up one by one.
Non-cinephiles needn't worry, however. The album - a rapid follow-up to the pair's equally impressive Inner Sunshine EP - isn’t just some overly-nerdy ode to independent cinema; while the closest this writer has come to Tarkovsky's work remains the so-so George Clooney remake of Solaris, this is thankfully no barrier to entry. In fact, an appreciation of the likes of Boards Of Canada or Autechre will arguably serve the listener better, as Solar Bears sound just as assured here as those like-minded British mavericks did throughout their highly influential early work. Indeed, if you’ve already downloaded the Big Jack-sampling ‘Forest Of Fountains’, crunching ‘Crystaline (Be Again)’ or tune-of-the-year contender ‘Neon Colony’ - then you’ll know they’re the real deal.
That being said, a handful of mp3s doesn’t really come close to telling the whole story; She Was Coloured In demands, and richly deserves, your full attention. Its greatest strength is that, despite being blessed with an embarrassment of stand-alone gems, it never buckles under the strain, and maintains a level of consistency over the course of almost an hour that points towards a bright future for the pair. As well as those already mentioned above, the presence of the bracing ‘Twin Stars’, the ‘Playground Love’-era Air-soundalike ‘Primary Colours At The Back Of My Mind’, or the powerfully and intricately crafted ‘Dolls’ would come close to overwhelming most debut electronic albums. But, as with most great records, there aren't really any duff tracks to be carried along here. Displaying the confidence to, for example, follow an obvious closing track like ‘Neon Colony’ with the comparatively breezy actual closer ‘Perpetual Meadow’ - and crucially make this work - its' clear that John Kowalski and Rian Trench have the ability not only to craft mesmeric electronic cuts, but to stitch them together with a truly exciting degree of expertise. More please.
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