For all the undoubtedly great and varied music that’s been released on this fair isle in recent times, it’s strange how few Irish bands have made an impact on the non-Irish blogosphere. One possible reason for this is that the more influential blogs tend to favour certain types of music or trends over others: at the moment, sci-fi-influenced electronic soundscapes or shadowy ‘witch house’ are very much in, while the heavier, more-rock-orientated end of the spectrum favoured by bands like Adebisi Shank, Jogging or BATS doesn’t see as much hype. This may also partly explain the roaring success of Dublin/Wicklow duo Solar Bears, who have been on the receiving end of some pretty strong praise from the likes of Altered Zones (Pitchfork’s blog-focused sister site), Gorilla Vs. Bear and Sonic Router (who included the Bears on a recent podcast along with such boundary-pushing artists as Zomby, James Blake and Pariah). Signing to widely-respected label Planet Mu can’t have done them much harm, either.
Solar Bears’ music is very much in the vein of the aforementioned sci-fi set: influenced by films and soundtrack composers as much as it is by conventional bands or musicians, the duo have cited Tarkovsky, Twin Peaks and Fantastic Planet as key influences. Debut LP She Was Coloured In is a stunningly accomplished work, and in these times of attention deficit and free mp3s it’s important to stress that this is an album in the truest sense: from the kaleidoscopic opening track ‘Forest of Fountains’ to the ambient, pastoral strains of closer ‘Perpetual Meadow’, the listener is taken on a sonic journey that never stalls too long in any one place.
There’s a rich variety of styles on offer here: ‘Children of the Times’ lays down a breezy groove and overlays it with a vocoderised hook; ‘Crystalline (Be Again)’ is driven by a robust bassline and insistent synths; ‘The Quiet Planet’ rolls along with a cinematic atmosphere and a Moroder-esque rhythm; ‘Division’ is a short, distortion-tinged ode to Ian Curtis. The peak is reached late on: the superb ‘Dolls’ carefully and gradually layers instrument upon instrument, including some solemn choir vocals, to create a dramatic climax that skilfully avoids bombast; it’s followed by ‘Neon Colony’ which sounds like a post-battle victory march for the sci-fi film of your wildest dreams.
The possible visual associations are endless though: She Was Coloured In is a record that evokes otherworldly landscapes and paints pictures in your mind. Give it your full attention and see where it takes you.