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Solar Bears - She was coloured in


Planet Mu

Much electronica is stale as year-old rice cakes; while not inedible, it tastes pretty much the same. Producers frequently rehash fashionable musical trends, adding little new in the process. Granted, many such albums are well produced and easy on the ears, but few producers actually carve out niches in unexplored territory or reinterpret older music in stimulating ways. So it is refreshing to find a group like the Solar Bears, who are willing to reinterpret older styles and, in the process, nudge at musical boundaries.

Solar Bears are a duo of Irish musicians John Kowalski and Rian Trench. Their debut studio album, She Was Coloured In, combines acoustic instrumentation with an array of drum programming, creamy synths, vintage tape machines, and electronic effects to guide the listener on a euphoric journey through warm, head-bobbing soundscapes. 

The beauty of the album lies in its inherent nostalgia. It is a modern retake of 1960s and 1970s krautrock, but also shows a range of more pop-based influences including such varying groups as Depeche Mode, Boards of Canada, and Telefon Tel Aviv. Bright synths and a bobbing bass make “The Quiet Planet” feel like a well-made (though vocal-less) synth pop tribute to the English pop group. The cosmic influence is evident in the slow ambient, creamy synths of “Head Supernova.” And the moving bass line and light sounds of “Hidden Lake” show an uncanny resemblance to earlier Telefon Tel Aviv. As such, the music is hard to classify, feeling familiar without recourse to replicating a style in its entirety.

It is difficult to decide on any track that stands out above the rest. The 15 individual tracks fit together in an organic whole, rewarding the patient listener with a number of colourful and well-constructed soundscapes. Kowalksi and Trench are not afraid to intersperse the album with different styles, in addition to those noted above. At times, they show more of a post rock flare with tracks like “She Was Coloured In.” Other times, with “Cub,” “Perpetual Meadow,” and “Solarization,” they explore more bucolic folktronica. But the album’s mainstay lies in the slow-building and upbeat electronica of tracks like “Dolls” and “Neon Colony.” She Was Coloured In is a terrific debut album. It features warm, well-crafted, and inventive tracks that feel both nostalgic and new at the same time. Give it a listen. You won’t be let down. Highly Recommended.

 Jeremy Yellen   


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