Music

Shalabi Effect: Pink Abyss

Salvatore Ciolfi

Shalabi Effect

Pink Abyss

Label: Alien8 Recordings
US Release Date: 2004-01-13
UK Release Date: 2004-01-26
Amazon
iTunes

With the gluttony of post-rock slowly beginning to eat itself, we can start to expect bands like Shalabi Effect to push out the lines of their boundaries. Maybe then it's no coincidence I've had this new release from the Montreal based collective for more than a week now, the urge to write about it though seemingly unwilling to expose itself. Even now I can't quite shake the feeling I'm forcing it, this though without any disappointment or lack of inspiration. It might be because after repeated listens I still don't feel as if I have a good grasp on this set. Unpredictable, varied, and bigger than its relatively short playing time, Pink Abyss is hard to pin down because it is every where the band has been and can be at once.

And while this is an exciting and unexpected occurrence coming from a vet like Sam Shalabi, it can sound as if you're listening to an unfocused mess … though to their credit moments of listener doubt are short lived, and generally made useful in the near seamless finish of the album in its entirety.

And though label and band have been quick to dub this their "pop" album, Pink Abyss begins as opaquely and drone infected as much of Shalabi's solo work (not to mention his spectacular output with shadowy folk outfit Molasses), with the opening track a darkly jumbled collection of sounds and instrumentation that is titled aptly, "Message from the Pink Abyss".

This though soon opens up brilliantly into a faux jazz number featuring some of the warmest and sexiest lead vocals to be heard this year and most definitely by anything on Alien8. Supplied by the stunning Elizabeth Anka Vajagic, this vocalized second track titled "Bright Guilty World", is unexpected if only for its lounge foundation, slowed down funk feel of all things, and its quiet eerie power. It is this track, following on the heels of the expected opener, where you begin to hear the band's past merging with the unexplored.

"Blue Sunshine" also works in the same vein, opening from the sombre violin tremble of "Shiva Pria" like a burst of sun opening the day, and almost giddy in its joy. Of course this being Shalabi, the joy is thoughtful, haunting, and ultimately double-edged and much more meaningful because of it. With Charles Spearin of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think a featured player on trumpet, the track truly is a pop song, though one with a triumphant feel built upon a layer of inspired sonic collages.

With more greatness in track ordering, "Blue Sunshine" melts down seamlessly through to "I Believe in Love", a track led by Shalabi's guitar playing, with only a haunted reverb swabbed chorus of vocals attempting to compete with it. Lingering, frightening, and evocative in its flourishes of eastern and psychedelic music, the song seemingly reveals itself differently with each listen, and yet remains one too hopeful in its slow rocking build-up to truly be sombre.

Later this method of intercontinental music influence is used beautifully in "Imps", once again led by a sincere yet determined guitar lead from Shalabi.

And considering the purposefully intense and reflective tone breathing through much of the album, its five-minute closing mediation ("Kinder Surprise") seems fitting. Sounding in turns hurt, relieved, and utterly devastated, Pink Abyss's finale is a sweet come down from the measured fervent intensity that comes before it, and one that sounds unlike anything else in their history.

Despite this though, it's still safe to say this music is not for everyone (though, of course, those familiar with Shalabi would probably already know this). This is a record that is altogether challenging, winning and losing in its scattered cohesion, though somehow it sounds natural, and naturally I still don't know how to write about it. Nevertheless, it would be foolish of you to overlook hearing it.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image