Solar Bears She Was Coloured In [
Reviewed by Zach Kelly Source: (Pitchfork)
Ireland's Solar Bears are clearly into sci-fi. Their name is a nod to Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's classic 1972 film, Solaris, about a psychologist who is haunted by what he perceives to be his dead wife aboard a space station. And while it's easy to call up images of oceanic planets while listening to the duo's debut LP, She Was Coloured In, conjuring the emotionally complex and ruminative themes at work in a film like Solaris is much more difficult. Solar Bears instead seem to take their inspiration from less sophisticated fare, as much of She Was Coloured In feels like the soundtrack to a cheesy, choose-your-own-ending sci-fi novel you might pick up at a yard sale. But this is no slight, despite a proclivity for epic synth lines and rhythm-driven tracks built for B-movie chase sequences. Solar Bears are able to cleverly balance their nerdier impulses by taking cues from Air's most amorous leanings and shading their music with the dark electronics that mark contemporaries like Matthew Dear and CFCF.
On one end of the spectrum are songs like "Head Supernova" and "The Quiet Planet", which sound like what people in the 1950s must have assumed the music of 2011 would be like, while "Solarization" could have easily stood in as an early "Nova" theme song. These cosmically fanciful tracks sometimes threaten to overwhelm the more restrained moments, especially considering the record's clumsy sequencing. But as producers continue to warm to the idea of integrating unhip, dated 80s motifs into their music, it seems frivolous to scold Solar Bears for pushing it a little.
Having a strongly defined sound doesn't mean you aren't allowed to play around, and Solar Bears make the most of these excursions. "Cub" features a chilly acoustic guitar at its center, overlapped by a soft, woodwind-like swell. "Primary Colours at the Back of My Mind" mirrors Air's "Playground Love" so closely it almost borders on plagiarism, all hazed-out on 70s FM slow-burn sexy. But the finishing touches-- melting orchestral flourishes, wah-wah'd porno guitar, some perfectly plain drums-- all showcase Solar Bears' ability to get the details right.
So the very best stuff on She Was Coloured In manages to touch all the bases, using the low-key moments for atmosphere and juicing them up with stylish genre tweaks. "She Was Coloured In" pulses with a progged-out, psychedelic energy, while "Crystalline (Be Again)" is a delicate club jam that oozes late-era New Order. Highlight "Dolls" ambitiously drags bleary, wistful keys and strings through an epically aggressive trip-hop suite, followed by an anthemic final act. In these moments, She Was Coloured really pops; the mysteries of the universe as imagined in a pulp novel seem to come into focus.
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