The latest up and comers to arise from established electronic label Planet Mu are Solar Bears. Having already reviewed their Inner Sunshine EP in August, I was eager to get my hands on the duos full length effort.
One of my complaints of Inner Sunshine EP was that it was, if you like, overly pleasant. The general cohesion favoured by the band naturally allows for atmosphere more than stand out individual efforts, but there has to be a balance of both, in my opinion, for a record to stand out as a classic, or at least an album that you’ll come back to. My main apprehension when listening to She Was Coloured In for the first time then was this: Would the band have put together a cohesive album of good songs?
For the most part, yes. Solar Bears favour atmosphere and that hasn’t changed on their full length, but the krautrock inspired nuggets that make up She Was Coloured In are at least distinctively recognizable enough so as not to become completely background music. Cuts like the inappropriately named “The Quiet Planet” rocket along with pulsating synthesisers and the band’s signature flickering electronics, giving the tune just enough atmosphere to remain relevant. Or the Can-esque jam of “Primary Colours At The Back Of My Mind”, which sees gentle twinkles and steady bass dance with an incredibly funky wah wah lick. Even opener “Forest Of Fountains” shows the band’s progression from past works; a very distinct electronic line is paired with warm acoustics which finds a way of sounding fresh before leading into “Children of the Times”- The Kraftwerk influence apparent not only in the vocoder vocals but also in the space age bass progression. The feeling of space psychedelica continues on “Twin Stars”, its military drum beats and sinister electronics providing the soundtrack to some sort of almighty battle involving giant robots.
She Was Coloured In is not without its flaws, and suffers from a slightly weak midsection. Those who find enough to love about the first part of the album will find their faith rewarded though, as the album also benefits from a strong burst at its climax. “Dolls” is a brilliantly contemplative number, the electro that runs throughout is distinct enough yet remains familiar and ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome. “Neon Colony” wins the award for ‘Track most likely to please your mum’, and it assuaged in part my belief that She Was Coloured In could consist of any track order and retain the same atmosphere. It would of course been a failure had this been the case, and thankfully the boys have pulled it off pretty well.
This is an album that is going to seem no less of a movie soundtrack upon the second listen as it does the first, but those that stick with it will find a quirky and intriguing album of hidden moments and pleasant flourishes. What’s more, I know fine well that this album is not going to receive the attention it deserves, nor is it likely to reach as many as would want to hear it. Which is all the more reason why you should give She Was Coloured In a spin.Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In,